Nottingham Theatre Royal's annual Colin McKintyre Classic Thriller Season which comprises of four thrillers played, as in rep, over four weeks is a very much anticipated part of the Nottingham theatre calendar. This year they present Jekyll and Hyde, Night must Fall, Suddenly at Home and Stage Struck and all the plays are performed by the TABS Production cast over the month of August.
Their season begins with Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde adapted for the stage and directed by Nicholas Briggs. Brigg's adaptation stays true to the original, although edited for theatrical brevity, it keeps, within the story-telling, to a lesser degree of locations.
For this reviewer the confused set design by Geoff Gilder is too much at visual odds with the Victorian melodramatic story. Only the central door of Dr Jekyll's house is in period leaving the rest of the stage to be dressed in incongruous criss-cross wire flats that, except for being draped in swathes of red cloth, would have suited West Side Story best.
The atmospheric lighting by Michael Donoghue helps to create various moods effectively and the music, composed, selected and arranged by Nicholas Briggs equally so - albeit with a little over reliance on the drama being punctuated repeatedly with short blasts of 'revelation' music.
On the whole, the gothic story of Jeykll and Hyde, is well acted by the TABS cast and the style keeps within the boundaries of what a modern audience would respond to in the form of melodramatic theatre. In fact the 2015 Nottingham Theatre Royal audience are not so far removed from their Victorian ancestors with the seriousness in which they take the moral story-telling. No tittering in the third row here, no even as Andrew Fettes occasionally hams it up beautifully as the evil Mr Edward Hyde.
There are some believable solid performances throughout especially from Susan Earnshaw as the concerned house keeper, Mrs Poole. Earnshaw brings a motherly sincerity to her part that a man in the role of the novella's original Mr Poole the butler wouldn't have. The choice to have a Mrs Poole also redresses the balance of the sexes in a very male populated play.
Anna Mitcham shows her versatility throughout this piece, one minute being killed off and the next popping up again in the mixed roles of servant girl Maisy, the dubiously moral Paterson, and the maid to Dr Lanyon.
Andrew Ryan is quietly compelling as, Mr Gabriel Utterson, lawyer and friend to Dr Jeykll and quite unrecognisable from his previous appearances at this theatre as pantomime dame! Robert Laughlin is perfect as a large bearded Dr Henry Jekyll and shows just right amount of concern over his mental and physical state as the tortured doctor. In a scene that could have been risible he refrains from being unintentionally comical as he twists and turns in agony in the transformation scene.
A character that could be allowed to employ a little humour into the proceedings is the canny Scotland Yard police inspector – Inspector Newcomen – given an highly enjoyable and slightly sarcastic performance here by David Gilbrook. From his programme résumé Gilbrook seems to have been cast as a police inspector on many theatrical occasions. His wry performance is one of the highlights of the show.
One wouldn't truthfully call this production of Jekyll and Hyde particularly scary or even overly thrilling. However, on the plus side the action moves quickly from location to location and the acting standards overall are good and the gothic story entertains. For the rest of the season we have the thrillers from the pens of Emlyn Williams, Frances Durbridge and Simon Gray to look forward to. Jekyll and Hyde runs until 8th August.
Review originally published on August 4th by The Public Reviews