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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (tour - Newbury, Watermill)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Rhum and Clay Production Company was founded at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe two years ago by the Watermill Theatre's outreach director Beth Flintoff. A new collaboration has resulted in a retelling of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

The all-male threesome – Christopher Harrisson, Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells – manages to change what is a dark and complex story into a playful and fun version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale. If you want a straightforward interpretation of the novella,  this is not for you. However, through fabulous characterisation, the essence of the story remains and the use of comedy makes some of the darker scenes more palatable.

The story of the man with the dual personality has lasted through the generations, and the production adheres to this. The physical transformation of the respected Dr Jekyll into the murderous Mr Hyde is achieved through the physical prowess of the actor, from posture to facial expressions to the way he moves and speaks.

Indeed, the three actors take on a variety of roles, and it is with great skill that they achieve this. They fully embody the characters, whether these are the Irish maid or the up-and-coming doctor and it doesn't detract, or confuse, the action. I am sure that a production of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde could well feel as though it was running on too long through all the doctor's experiments.

However, through the use of music, mime and even a little bit of dance, long periods of story telling were entertainingly told within seconds. Not only does this move the narrative along but it also provided the audience with an interlude to the story. The use of comedy avoids it becoming altogether too intense.

From the moment the actors step out under the wooden proscenium and interact with the audience, it is obvious that this is a comedic piece. Indeed, when Danvers Carew is murdered (without giving too much away) what could be a distasteful moment of cannibalism is made palatable through the actors' ability to use comedy.

- Katherine Graham


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