Many theatre fans will be more familiar with Frank Wildhorn's hugely successful musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson's gothic horror, but Eric Gracey's imaginative and atmospheric adaptation for Blue Orange Arts is every bit as compelling. Audience members walk straight into a dimly lit 1930s jazz club with live pianist, ornate table lamps and owner greeting them as they walked into the auditorium.
As the show progressed the thoughtfulness of the staging shone through - the catwalk style, jazz hall stage split the real performance space of the intimate theatre, allowing action to take place either side to convincingly represent different locations with absolutely no scene shifting or movement of props necessary.
Regular scene transitions were instead aided with thoughtful lighting, ingeniously simplistic costume changes and soulful interludes of classics like Putting On The Ritz and I Get A Out Of Kick You, effortlessly crooned by Nicola Foxfield, who beautifully plays doomed bombshell Rose, and Sarah Gain, who combines well as Jekyll's unfortunate fiancée Alice.
Oliver Hume gives a compelling performance as a jittery, eccentric and intellectually tortured Jekyll, who later transforms into a menacing Hyde. The contrast could have been better exploited with a more obvious change in the tone of his voice and some of the nuances demonstrated so expertly by Horobin. But in truth this is nit-picking an otherwise excellent and gripping leading man performance with not a single slip up, despite a number of scenes where he was required to quickly recite very complicated scientific theory.
Daniel Blacker shone as the sharp-tongued but supportive John Utterson - Jekyll's increasingly concerned solicitor and friend. And Stuart Horobin produced a show-stealing multi-role performance, slipping effortlessly from one character to the next. Aided with nothing more than the odd change of coat and a pair of spectacles; each of his four characters was unique and utterly convincing to the point it was at first difficult to work out if the same person was playing them. One moment he was a seedy cockney nightclub owner, the next the upper class doctor friend of Jekyll, the next a salt-of-the-earth detective and finally, and perhaps portrayed most impressively of all, Jekyll's increasingly beleaguered servant, Paul.
The grisly story unfolds with pace, clarity and a gritty realism with scenes in the second act made all the more menacing by the stark contrast of an intentionally pedestrian opening ten minutes. Bravo to Eric Gracey, director Mark Webster and all involved. This is a thoroughly entertaining, thoughtful and polished portrayal.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.