Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

doc jekyll

Richard Constable  as Dr Jekyll, Picture: Alastair Barnsley

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Highbury Theatre Centre, Sutton Coldfield


Quite simply this is the best theatrical production of Jekyll and Hyde that I have ever seen.

This is not the first time that this story, originally a novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886 , has been presented as a play. It was adapted for theatre in 1887 as a four-act play by Thomas Russell Sullivan in collaboration with the actor Richard Mansfield.

Sullivan made several changes to the story; which in turn has evolved in the many subsequent film, theatre, and television versions . This is an immense advantage for Nick Lane, who has written this adaptation, offering him maximum leeway in fashioning the narrative for a 21st century audience almost 140 years on. Although a familiar tale, few have read the 1886 original anyway!

Stevenson suffered ill health throughout his life while he was writing. That experience was certainly manifested in this narrative. Furthermore, this adaptation takes inspiration from Lane’s own personal experiences.

Injured by a car accident at the age of 26 that permanently damaged his neck and back, Lane imagines Jekyll as a physically weakened man who discovers a cure for his ailments, a cure that also unearths the darkest corners of his psyche.

Director Paul Steventon Marks works within the inevitable financial limitations of a suburban amateur theatrical production to eke the maximum out of every member of his production team creating a show of remarkable intensity as a result.

Paul himself was responsible for the masks which transform Jekyll, Mike Lloyds vivid yet restrained lighting uses green to maximum effect and the costumes are of consistently high and visually compelling standard.

Richard irons, Tony Reynolds and Libby Slack deliver an ambient, period but eerie sound score which is atmospheric, but never intrusive. The set reeks of Gothic mystery almost bordering on Steampunk

Casting two actors as Jekyll and Hyde is good business for an amateur company, you create two lead roles eschew the challenges of onstage visual transformation and allow your cast to have a lot of fun as a result. Richard Constable plays a neurotic schizophrenic hand wringing madman very well, Steventon Marks has the most fun as Hyde channelling his inner Johnny Depp circa Pirates of the Caribbean as a masked, profane murderous demon.

Yet it was Mariel Marcano-Olivier who stole the acting honours as Eleanor, an adventuress and love interest for both Jekyll and lawyer Gabriel Utterson (Phil Astle). Strutting her stuff in a striking fish tail maxi skirt and strapless bodice, her long cape swept all before her as she oozed a smouldering sensuality. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde remains true to the spirit and themes of the original novella while offering contemporary audiences a thoroughly modern new female lead character.

A talented supporting cast offer numerous memorable cameos, amongst them Jake Collyer as a detective, Rob Fusco as a politician, Carol Deakin as a prostitute and Mathilda Jenson-Toft as Utterson’s sister.

The Production never sagged or slacked, with Lane’s script pacy and brisk, and the cast bringing a century old story alive with brio and energy , and runs until 10th Dec.

Gary Longden


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