Monday, 23 March 2015

The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars        

When the Edinburgh New Town dwelling Jekyll clan pose for a family portrait at the start of Morna Pearson's loose-knit large-scale reinvention of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel for Lung Ha's Theatre Company, they look like pillars of respectable society. Scratch the surface, however, and beyond Dr Jeremy Jekyll's scientific dissections of the human brain, his wife Jane sees her life through an ever refreshed wine glass, while son William wastes his days in lieu of his inheritance.

It is book-reading daughter Miriam who is most frustrated by her lot, however. Physically restrained by a too tight corset that becomes a symbol of a society that would rather keep women in their place, her fierce intelligence and ambitions for university combined with a blossoming womanhood sees her led astray by a black clad alter ego who unleashes her libertine spirit.

Pearson has constructed a fascinating feminist reimagining of Stevenson's story which resets it in Victorian Edinburgh, the original city where politesse becomes a facade for a far darker Old Town underbelly. This leaves plenty of scope for light and shade in Caitlin Skinner's production, which navigates Lung Ha's regular ensemble of some seventeen performers through the big city bustle.

Much of the atmosphere is helped along on designer Becky Minto's tableau of arches and Edinburgh landmarks by Greg Sinclair's live piano and voice-led score, performed by members of the show's co-producers, Drake Music Scotland. This lends things a Hammer horror eerieness which Skinner and choreographer Christine Devanay take full advantage of, as Emma McCaffrey's Miriam is burled through the city by Nicola Tuxworth's veiled and silent Hyde before Miriam is liberated forever.

The Herald, March 23rd 2015
 
ends

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