Our Visit to Jekyll and Hyde . . . Horror Personified
Here at VisitBlackpool, we’re big enough to admit that we can sometimes be ‘fraidy cats, whether at the Blackpool Tower Dungeons or Pasaje del Teror at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
But putting a brave face on this week, we went along to see Talking Scarlet’s production of Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the more famous gothic melodramas. We found our seats in Blackpool’s glorious Grand Theatre, becoming unsettled as the lights dimmed.
As the curtain drew up, a basic set was revealed of London’s cobbled streets, but throughout the performance it proved to be effective in portraying so many buildings from different perspectives. The costumes were not as elaborate as others performances have showcased, but the strong performances from all principal cast members transported us right back to 1886.
An enduring smoke machine, unnerving music and clever lighting gave a great impression of our capital city’s Victorian smog and debauchery.
The story jumps straight in with the dramatic and brutal murder of MP Sir Danvers Carew occurring in the city streets. Lawyer Gabriel Utterson (Neil Roberts) is questioned by the police as the Sir Carew had a letter addressed to Utterson on his person when he died.
Maintaining client confidentiality, Utterson refuses to open the letter, but claims that an Edward Hyde is likely responsible from the crime, a man with features in equal parts wicked and ugly, and yet he cannot actually describe it when asked.
A real strong point of this play is the way that director Nicholas Briggs has utilised flashback scenes. Many times throughout the performance, characters would begin to relay a set of events before fading to black as these events are then acted out. Having the events occurring first-hand was instrumental in giving the tale vitality. After all, it wouldn’t be very interesting to watch one man recall the entire tale in a ninety-minute monologue!
A good friend of Mr Utterson’s, Henry Jekyll (Gary Turner) has recently altered his will so that in the event of his death, or should he disappear for more than three months, the sole beneficiary would be Mr Hyde, a decision that has caused great tension between Mr. Utterson and the doctor. Gary Turner’s performance as Mr. Jekyll is a brilliant choice, despite him seeming perhaps a bit young at first glance.
Dr Jekyll’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic of late, evidenced by his bizarre behaviour in his laboratory and tortured grimace. According to Dr. Jekyll’s maid Mrs Poole (Kim Taylforth), he has become prone to locking himself in his laboratory and ordering his staff to obey Mr. Hyde’s every command.
We’re right on board with Mr. Utterson as he investigates the strange case of Mr. Hyde’s disappearance and his violent crime, and enjoy having the pieces of this unlikely story woven together by encounters with characters close to the doctor.
The most impressive moment in the whole performance was Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory monologue where he explains his grave mistakes in his mission to externalise the base, wicked part of his character whom he so desperately wants to rid himself of. He unravels before our eyes, and suddenly, everything makes sense.
The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde cannot have been an easy one to execute onstage, because like many gothic stories of the Victorian age, the horror occurs within one’s own mind. The atmosphere is dependent on these dramatic transformations, and Talking Scarlet are hugely successful in making these seem seamless.
It was an exciting evening indeed, exploring the psychopathology of a split personality in Dr Jekyll, and the attempt to seek salvation from evil. It’s certainly a play that provides opportunity for a great discussion afterwards, and thank you so much to Blackpool’s Grand Theatre for your hospitality.
The show is only on until Saturday, 10th of September, so grab your tickets here while you can!