Morna Pearson’s rewrite of Stevenson’s classic short story brought Jekyll and Hyde to Edinburgh, using the revised location to help draw out the contrast between dark and light that runs central to the plot. The tale focuses on Jekyll’s daughter, Miriam (Emma McCaffrey), and an inversion of what would have been the typical or expected gender roles of the 19th century. This reversal is the highlight of the production with McCaffrey inspiring both laughter and shouts of praise from the audience as her dedication to gender equality becomes increasingly pronounced.
Lung Ha Theatre Company’s dedication to working with learning disabilities makes this production notable for more than just the alteration of the traditional storyline. The large cast of 17 interacted well together on stage, using the space to physically demonstrate the divide between good and evil in a unique way.
McCaffrey’s leading performance strengthened throughout with the interaction between Miriam and Hyde (Nicola Tuxworth) peaking in the penultimate scene. However, also worthy of recognition was Karen Sutherland’s performance as Mrs. Jekyll. Sutherland commanded the stage with her wit in the primary scene in which she appears. Revealing her cynicism about marriage to her recently engaged daughter (McCaffrey), Sutherland’s perfect timing and superb delivery had the audience in stitches.
The staging was simple but effective, making the most of smoky darkness to set the mood. However, worthy of the highest commendation were the musicians. Their skill managed to ensure the audience veered from laughter to apprehension in time with the acting. Fundamental to every scene, they were flawless throughout.
The audience was kept laughing throughout the show, the emphasis on comedy being a refreshing twist to a traditionally dark tale. Of note was the supporting character of Poole (John Edgar) who delighted the audience with his humour in every scene in which he was present. Sporadically the dialogue did stray into the territory of trying too hard for laughs, with comedic timing being occasionally off and some sentences lost through under-enunciation or being spoken overly quickly. However, the focus on entertainment was successful even if the mood was not what the audience had anticipated upon arrival.
Whilst the balance between light heartedness and the traditional dark nature of the tale is not always perfectly captured, Jekyll & Hyde is a testament to the power and importance of theatre in our society. Original, witty writing and the clear enjoyment of the actors on the stage are bound to endear the production to any audience from the first.
Photo: Douglas Jones