A stunning adaptation of the 1886 Gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a mesmerising, clever and spellbinding production that brings together the best of theatre and cinema for Perth Festival 2023.
It is a mysterious, chilling, and thrilling story, following London lawyer Gabriel Utterson in his quest to uncover the truth about a new presence in his friend Dr Henry Jekyll’s life – the vile and conniving Mr Edward Hyde. Utterson believes his friend Dr Jekyll to be blackmailed and manipulated by Mr Hyde, after realising that Jekyll has left everything in his will to Hyde “in the case of his death or disappearance”. Utterson doesn’t get to see Mr Hyde’s face for most of the show, but in their brief encounters he feels that Mr Hyde has a sinister and evil presence that he finds deeply disturbing, and he fears for the safety of his friend. The plot explores the duality of mankind, the internal battle between good and evil, and how who we claim to be in public can significantly vary from who we are in private.
Written and directed by Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Director Kip Williams, the cine-theatre adaption is incredible with its use of screens, lighting, sound, and staging. The camera crew follow the actors around the stage, and the film is projected in real time onto the large screens that are suspended above the stage, capturing each scene from unique angles. The stage crew swiftly rearrange the props– from a foggy streetlamp-lined London streets, to Utterson’s personal study, Jekyll’s lab, Hyde’s home and more. The video is projected onto the screens in a film noir, black and white style, and the lighting on stage is kept shadowy, dim, and eerie. As an audience member you can feel the tension building as you sit on edge, waiting for the ugly truth to be unveiled.
Actors Matthew Backer and Ewen Leslie perform all the roles in this production, Backer playing Utterson and Leslie playing Jekyll and Hyde, as well as all the other small roles. Leslie is particularly talented at transforming into each character – his facial expressions, demeanour and tone together with wigs and costume changes make him unrecognisable to a character played in the previous scene. Backer is an ideal lead. He perfectly captures the intellectual, introverted and observant investigator, and as the main narrator we connect with the frustration and anxiety he feels at this mystery. Every time he uncovers something, he is faced with a dozen new questions, and the slippery Mr Hyde dances just out of his reach.
The dialogue is fast-paced, nineteenth-century English, which was initially hard to follow but as you become submerged in the story it gets easier to keep up. The rapid-fire conversation between characters is impressive, and the fluidity in which they go from conversing with one another to speaking directly to the cameras as a narrator is masterful.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is an exceptional theatre production, and not one to be missed.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Presented by: Sydney Theatre Company
Location: His Majesty’s Theatre
When: Saturday 11 – Sunday 19 February 2023
Tue – Fri 7.30pm | Sat 1 & 7.30pm | Sun 5pm
Tickets and more information: https://www.perthfestival.com.au/events/strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/
Rating: 5 stars