King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
The knives are out from the start in this new tour of David Edgar’s wordy reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic split personality yarn. That’s the sound of them being sharpened at the start of Kate Saxon’s production, beneath a low rumble on a bleak looking stage dominated by a bridge that presumably moves between two worlds. Into this steps Phil Daniels’ Jekyll, an emotionally bunged-up sophisticate with a cut-glass Morningside twang and a repressed desire to cut loose. Liberation comes indirectly care of his free-thinking sister Katherine, who gives her already slightly creepy brother freedom of their dead father’s library, where all manner of mind-expanding formulae is presumably archived. Cue the unleashing of the amoral Mr Hyde, who brutalises his way through London before OD’ing on his own excesses.
Edgar’s 1991 play’s liberal reinterpretation adds a female presence to the story that goes beyond victimhood. Saxon runs with this in her Touring Consortium Theatre tour of a show originally seen at the Rose Theatre, Kingston production. As Katherine, Polly Frame makes the most of an under-written role, while Grace Hogg-Robinson as beleaguered runaway maid Annie gets the brunt of the sort of Victorian hypocrisy that Jekyll and Hyde epitomise. A solitary female singer acts as a kind of spectral chorus left out in the cold.
If things sag at times, flashes of dark humour remain, while Daniels gives a nuanced and at times arch performance as Jekyll and Hyde, originally played by two actors. Here, however, Daniels takes on both men without recourse to smoky potions, hairy hands or excessive gurning. Instead, he manages to blur the two faces of thrill-seeking addiction in a way that goes beyond the binary before its inevitable self-destructive conclusion gets both the better and worst of him.