Gender Dysphoria And Victoriana In Jekyll And Hyde

Jekyll & Hyde ★★★★☆

By Londonist Last edited 37 months ago
Gender Dysphoria And Victoriana In Jekyll And Hyde Jekyll & Hyde 4
Photo courtesy of the Chung Ying Theatre Company.

When his wife Fanny woke him up from what looked like a terrible nightmare, Robert Louis Stevenson complained that he’d been “dreaming a fine bogey tale”. Thankfully, he put pen to paper, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was born. Red Shift founder Jonathan Holloway pays brilliant tribute to the murky, dreamlike origin of Stevenson’s novella, with this production which is many-layered, shadowy and nightmarish to its core. As Victorian London’s renowned smog unfurls menacingly from vents in the floor, we are swirled into a world of silhouettes and smudgy make-up.

The enigmatic Dr Jekyll (Olivia Winteringham) is a pioneering scientist who has fled from the Balkan war, but the frighteningly archaic-looking pieces of scientific apparatus on the shelves of Neil Irish’s fantastically eclectic set aren’t the only baggage she has brought with her. Red Shift and Hong Kong’s Chung Ying Theatre Company collaborate with clockwork cohesion to narrate Jekyll’s struggles with abuse and gender dysphoria, and her doomed dalliance with Utterson (Michael Edwards).

Winteringham is masterfully measured in peeling back the onion-like scar-tissue of Jekyll’s psyche to reveal a life spent in intense pain. Our horror as we glimpse her personal experience and learn that she turns herself into Mr Hyde to escape the frail female body in which she was raped, is mercifully offset by the rest of the ensemble. They approach storytelling with Brechtian cheerfulness, supported by John Nicholls’ cabaret-style score: creepy and perky in all the right places. Holloway deftly tempers horror with touches of charm: Enfield (Graeme Rose) obligingly moves his corpse to make way for Jekyll and Utterson’s wedding waltz and even pitches in throwing confetti.

Holloway offers us a gloriously searing exploration of the scope of humanity’s ability to make sense of trauma. A must-see for those who enjoy their catharsis with a side of Victoriana.

By Rosalind Stone

Jekyll & Hyde runs at the Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins, Granary Square, N1C 4AA, until 8 August 2015. Tickets £12.50-£17.50. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 07 August 2015