It takes a lot to bring something new to the Jekyll and Hyde story, but that’s exactly what Sell A Door have done with this new adaptation from Jo Clifford. Set in a dystopian vision of 2022, this is a modern and relevant retelling that sees the doctor as a cancer specialist struggling under the weight of his scientific research and his inner demons.
As a trans woman, Clifford has a keen engagement with the themes of duality and transformation that permeate the narrative. There is a sense of Shakespearean grandeur to her script, that pairs Victoria language with modern influences, creating a heightened futuristic vision to match the poetry of Stephenson's novel. It is dense and thematically rich, but doesn’t always offer a lucid plotline. What eventually emerges is a parable for sexuality and accepting oneself, demons and all, though this only comes to the fore in the final moments. It is perhaps too sudden an ending, Clifford having trouble tying up each thematic thread.
There’s a great sense of theatricality to it all too, with plenty of asides to the audience and self-knowing humour – the actors seem acutely aware they’re performing, even if their initial introduction feels clunky. This allows for a meta-character in the form of Rowena Lennon playing a number of nameless female roles. It’s a clever way of injecting further multiple personalities into the production, though its implementation as a metaphor for the role of women in society feels a little overblown, especially in the final monologue.
Just as Jekyll must learn to accept his darker counterpart, this is a production that truly embraces the darker side of life. There’s an industrial, steampunk aesthetic to the set that’s complemented by a clattering, abstract, synthy soundtrack. As it rotates on the stage (perhaps symbolic of different sides of the same character), the cast slither, crawl and writhe in the darkness and the light, with stunningly stark lighting design from Charlie Morgan Jones. In the midst of it all is an outstanding performance from Nathan Ives-Moiba as Jekyll and Hyde. This is a visceral, physical performance as he transforms from one character to the next – Jekyll a well-spoken intellectual, Hyde a gruff beast of a man. Ives-Moiba is the star attraction in this deliciously sinister and often frightening production that brings gothic horror into the 21st century.
Watch: Jekyll & Hyde runs at the Greenwich Theatre until 14th February, before touring across the country.