Jekyll & Hyde (Old Vic)

Drew McOnie reimagines Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale at the Old Vic

Another week, another dance adaptation of a 19th century thriller. But where Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein at the Royal Opera House was faithful and slow, Drew McOnie's version of Jekyll & Hyde at the Old Vic breezes along with generous helpings of punch and panache.

A great part of McOnie's dancing career was under the wing of Matthew Bourne, and he has learnt at the feet of the master that if you are shaping a stage show, courage and irreverence pay off. His adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella shares very little with the original apart from a truncated title and an overall sense of mysterious transformation, but it succeeds because it recasts the story so clearly.

The action is updated to the 1950s, when the seductive danger of the underworld was seeping into post-war respectability. Gentle Dr Jekyll has become a florist whose blooms are always wilting, until he invents a magical vapour mist, that glows green in a glass bottle and perks wilting stems up so that they become powerful, hallucinogenic drugs. Of course, the discovery also unleashes Mr Hyde, who emerges naked from the shower and is soon on the rampage in a mustard yellow suit.

All of this is explained with considerable imaginative force on Soutra Gilmour's metal framed revolving set. McOnie, who won the Olivier award for best theatre choreography last year for In the Heights, has a great gift for communicative dance and his steps are swift and sweeping, picking up Fifties dance moves and riffing them into arching circles and sensual curves.

The dancing is superb, with a hard-working cast bringing energy and definition to each scene. As Jekyll, Daniel Collins seems flexible as a pipe cleaner, bending his legs and shaking his hips with sheer joy when he first encounters Rachel Muldoon's Dahlia. His endearing portrayal, with each nervous twitch, swivel and excited glance beautifully observed, makes the final descent into horror all the more upsetting.

The transformations into Tim Hodge's brutally assertive Hyde are brilliantly realised, with the help of clever strobe lighting; when they dance with each other, their bodies seem to blur into one. At the close, as the story hurtles to its bloody conclusion, bodies climb up to surround them like the souls of the damned.

What stops the night being a total triumph is the over-generalised group dances which don't take the plot anywhere and an over-amplified score by Grant Olding that oscillates between heavy rock and fifties pastiche without ever managing to suggest the chill of fear that underlines the story. Its over-insistence has the effect of flattening the action; only the moments of quiet when two women scream really send a shiver down the spine.

It's all hugely enjoyable, but ultimately misses the dark heart of Stephenson's masterpiece.

Jekyll & Hyde runs at the Old Vic until 28 May.