Progressive London audiences looking to embrace the macabre may be interested in Jekyll and Hyde by the National Youth Theatre at the Ambassador’s Theatre. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the production is directed by Roy Alexander Weise and written by Evan Placey.
Placey’s adaptation takes place in both a Victorian setting and the modern day. The first plotline follows the wife of Dr. Jekyll and is set in the time of the original novella, while the second takes place in a modern day police station and follows a female teenage fan-fiction writer. The Stage in their review of the play wrote: “[The] National Youth Theatre transforms the story into a discussion of powerfully resonant contemporary issues. Grappling with entrenched sexism, radicalisation, and online trolling.”
Speaking to Theatre London, Evan Placey describes how he wanted to bring women to the front of the story: “Revisiting the book, I was struck by the invisibility of women. Aside from two fleeting moments, they don’t exist… So I started to imagine what the stories were for the unseen women in the book. And what the narrative would be like if a woman were to take the reins.”
He also touched upon why he thought that the story was perfect for today’s audience: “Dr. Jekyll’s potion is now accessible to us all, through our online personas. Any of us can hide behind a screen and say or do as we like, exploring sides of ourselves we might not otherwise dare.”
Roy Alexander Weise is one of the most exciting up and coming directors in British theatre. Early this year he directed The Ugly One at the Park Theatre. Like Placey, he is also interested in how today’s culture is focused on image. His version of The Ugly One centres on a man who changes his face (the original was centred on a female) to be more successful. In an interview with What’s On Stage, Weise spoke of why he was attracted to a modern version of Jekyll and Hyde: “I am fascinated by the ways history can teach us about today. I feel like we put on a lot of classic stories but they don’t always have political or social relevance. I think we address that with Jekyll and Hyde.”
The Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic has been adapted numerious times, with over 120 screen versions of the novella alone. Many of the adaptions have brought the character into the modern era. The most recent modification of the character was in the 2017 film The Mummy with Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jekyll. On the small screen a modern day version of the character featured in Steven Moffat’s (of Doctor Who fame) six-part series Jekyll. It is rumoured that Chris Evans is going to play the lead role in a remake of the mini-series. In the gaming industry, Slingo have their own version of Jekyll and Hyde. In the Dr. Jekyll Goes Wild game, the platform use the Victorian versions of Jekyll and Hyde to add a gothic aesthetic to the gameplay. Despite the story being very familiar, the fact that it is still used across multiple media platforms shows how enduring and relevant it continues to be.
The National Youth Theatre was established in 1956 and its alumni include: Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Catherine Tate, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
Jekyll and Hyde runs at the Ambassador’s Theatre until 6 December.