Jekyll and Hyde
Written and directed by Jennifer Dick, and adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Gothic novella, Jekyll and Hyde is the latest production from Glasgow based theatre company, Bard in the Botanics. It tells of Gabriel Utterson, a solicitor who investigates a series of strange, horrifying occurrences involving the renowned Dr Henry Jekyll, and a murderous brute named Edward Hyde. Utterson eventually discovers that the two men are one and the same, as Jekyll's primal, violent urges are made flesh in the form of Hyde.
Performed by a cast of three against the backdrop of the stunning Kibble Palace, an ornate Victorian glasshouse in Glasgow's botanical gardens, Jekyll and Hyde stars Stephanie McGregor as Gabriel Utterson, Adam Donaldson as Henry Jekyll, and Sam Stopford as Edward Hyde. As Utterson, McGregor guides us through the story, remaining an anchor throughout, as her investigations eventually lead to the horrifying truth about her friend Dr Jekyll. The chemistry between the three actors crackles throughout, and intense performances become increasingly physical as events lurch towards the climax. As Edward Hyde, Jekyll's debauched, deadly alter-ego, Stopford exudes a blood-dark charisma, commanding attention with a deeply menacing performance which at times glints with devilishly gleeful humour.
The setting and use of space is equally captivating. Kibble Palace is a 19th-century wrought iron-framed glasshouse. It was initially used as an exhibition and concert venue, before being used for cultivating plants from the 1880s onwards. It is home to century-old tree ferns, orchids, and carnivorous plants. The audience are seated on either side of the entrance hall that leads into the glasshouse, creating an intimate, eventually unnerving experience. At various times throughout, Hyde appears to confront Jekyll at the opposite end of the space. In a particularly memorable, striking moment, the two actors deliver their lines in unison, two halves of one being, while separated by a huge frame that doubles as a doorway and a mirror, with Hyde mimicking Jekyll's movements before the two grapple with one another in a manifestation of the internal battle raging within Jekyll.
Various strange things happened with the acoustics under the glass domed ceilings, with voices echoing or seeming to come from much closer. The heat in the glasshouse (usually quite a humid place) in the early evening sun enhanced the intensity of the drama, while the chirps of birds high up in the dome, and the occasional scurrying mouse, created a weird tropical-Gothic ambience. Perfect for a story about the primitive urges that scuttle beneath the flesh of mankind, not always visible, but still always lurking. The inspired use of jazz music in certain scenes, with its conflicting technical and emotional aspects occurring simultaneously, further conveyed the frantic and complex inner workings of Jekyll's mind.
Jekyll and Hyde runs from Fri 14th July – Sat 29th July.
For further information visit the Bard in the Botanics website.