Based fairly loosely on Robert Louise Stevenson’s classic novella, this musical tells the story of the affable Dr Jekyll, who wishes to study the good and evil in man in search of a cure for his sectioned comatose father. Without funding from the hospital he resorts to experimenting on himself and in so doing lets loose the darker side of his own nature, the villainous Edward Hyde.
The Union Theatre, with its stone walls and slightly dank feel, provides the perfect atmosphere for this dark piece and designer Ben Walden’s clever use of video adds depth and texture to the grey and white walls of the core set. It's particularly effective during the large chorus numbers and as Hyde stalks through the streets searching out his victims. In fact, given this effective use of video (and the fact that the stage is small) it’s a shame that projection is not used more, perhaps to replace the rather clunky fold-out wall which is rolled out to section off a garden and bedroom by turns.
But these technical quibbles take nothing away from the solid performances of the cast. In the central role(s) Tim Rogers is wonderfully villainous, his swaggering, larger-than-life Hyde thoroughly transforming him from the genial (dare we say dull) Dr Jekyll. Leading ladies Madalena Alberto, who plays the ill-fated prostitute Lucy Harris, and Joanna Strand - Jekyll’s strong-willed fiancée - both give strong performances, their duet in the second half being beautifully balanced and moving. They and their co-stars are ably supported by Dean Austin’s musical direction and a highly accomplished orchestra.
Some of Luke Fredericks’ staging could be neater – the sightlines during Jekyll’s first transformation and his speech to the board of governors (which is made whilst stood squarely behind a pillar) suggest that too much has been choreographed with the centre seats in mind. But otherwise he directs the production well and at a good lick.
All in all an engaging and entertaining evening - Morphic Graffiti should be applauded for an accomplished inaugural production.