Jekyll and Hyde is a show where there is nowhere to hide. The comparatively few numbers for the chorus and the fact that it is almost entirely sung through requires a strong set of individual performances to make the show a success and Newcastle Operatic Society’s dark and atmospheric production had these in spades. More than that, each well thought out, superb performance contributed to a very effective portrayal of the gothic Victorian society in which it is set.
For those who don’t know the show, it follows much the same story as most adaptations you may have seen. Controversial scientist Dr Henry Jekyll is trying to separate out what he believes to be the two opposing forces found in each and every one of us, good and evil. After the hospital board decrees he cannot test his experimental formula on live patients, he inevitably tests it on himself and Mr Hyde is born. What follows is a revenge mission against those members of the board who denied him, the total collapse of his personal life as Hyde begins to take over, and the tragic consequences of those who try to get close to Jekyll meet Hyde instead.
Jekyll and Hyde cannot succeed without a strong title character. Mark Hilton’s Jekyll was passionate and frenetic in his work and grew into a man truly terrified that he was about to lose control. His Hyde was a menacing and lurking presence who had complete control of his victims right until they died. His chemistry with the poor prostitute Lucy Harris (Shelley Ann Rivers) sizzled at times. His Confrontation was excellent, given extra colour by his versatile and powerful vocals.
The 2 leading ladies of this show are wildly different roles – Emma Carew (Lottie Morris) is a privileged daughter of the upper classes, all innocence and naivety. Lucy Harris is all bravado as she desperately tries to maintain the demeanour she needs to succeed in a brothel. Both roles were played with panache and incredible attention to detail and Morris and Rivers have voices which would grace any West End stage. When they came together for In His Eyes, it was a spine tingling moment. Special mention also goes to Phil Buckley as Simon Stride and Rob Lawton for his very convincing John Utterson, Jekyll’s best friend.
For the majority, the set was quite minimalist and relied on a few well-chosen pieces of furniture and atmospheric lighting to set the scene. For the lab scenes, however, the whole stage was instantly transformed into a fully functioning laboratory, complete with bubbling potions and working flames. The careful use of fire was exhilarating and yet not at all distracting.
Overall this is a very ambitious yet successful production. The plot moves at a good pace, yet time is taken to explore some of the show’s underlying themes.
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