On the latest of our irregular excursions, we went to Sheffield’s smallest – and arguably most comfortable – theatre, the Lantern, in Nether Edge, to view Hull Truck’s new production of Jekyll and Hyde. Adapted by Nick Lane, the story has had a severe jigging-about to become suited to a three-handed show, each actor taking on several roles in what is a thrilling and enthralling production.
Now, Jekyll is working obsessively to cure forms of mental illness rather than to split the human consciousness. He is anti-social, obsessed, and aggressively driven; his counterpart Hyde accentuates these and adds desires for immediate gratification and chaos into the mix. Ranged aginst him are Jekyll’s longest-serving colleague and assistant, Lanyon, and his wife Eleanor, and the story’s primary investigator, the solicitor Utterson, who is concerned by Jekyll’s sudden alteration of his will in the stranger Hyde’s favour.
The focus is hard on desires and motivations, especially those of Jekyll and Eleanor, and it is their doomed romance that sets in motion Hyde’s creation. Hyde gives Eleanor what she cannot get from her husband, but she is appalled by his savagery. Utterson meanwhile, suspects Hyde of taking advantage of his benefactor.
James Weaver, as J&H, exudes a marvellous malevolence in both roles. His Jekyll is as uptight and frustrated as his Hyde is fast and loose. Joanna Miller matches him glower for glower as Eleanor and the sundry servants and street-girls, and John Gully is both Utterson and Lanyon, two distinctly different Victorian men. The first act finale is a wonderfully choreographed piece of slow-mo violence, taking Hyde beyond the pale, and all the while individual characters linger onstage beyond their last lines in a scene before being dismissed by the sharp glances of others. Along with the whispers and hisses of voices inside Jekyll’s head, the small stage of the Lantern creates a claustrophobic tension that Utterson’s narration carries along convincingly to the very end.
There’s humour too, for all that this is clearly a tragedy: Weaver takes time out from his duality to play a Scotland Yard inspector on Hyde’s heels, and even when investigating a murder with Utterson in tow, he can draw laughs from the audience. A brilliant night out – the play is on tour across the North for the next month or so – see the dates here – so do go see it if you possibly can.