The UEA Drama Society’s latest performance is the sinister tale of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ directed by Gemma Aked – Priestley, Rachael Stott and Molly Eagles.
As the audience walks into the studio they are met with the striking pose of the whole cast, standing motionless juxtaposed by lively classical music in the background. They maintained this impressive stance for the whole time while the audience settled down. Then from the beginning the audience were drawn into the gothic world of Victorian London from which they were not released until the end of the performance.
This was a staging of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ that did not rely on imposing scenery or grotesque makeup and clever tricks but rode comfortably on the remarkable talent of the actors. The play was so absorbing because every single member of the cast was entirely committed to their role. Myah Morris-Drake and Alex de Ritis were wonderfully convincing in the roles of the children, Lucy and Charles, bringing a delightful childish energy to the stage. This vitality contrasted with the brooding and sombre nature of Dr Jekyll was especially effective.
Josh Graham’s performance as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was truly impressive. He conveyed very clearly the inner turmoil of Dr Jekyll and the war being fought within him. This was supported further by the rest of the cast who became demon like figures when the character of Mr Hyde was taken on; emphasising the scale of his transformation and its consuming effect on those around him. The use of the other performers when Mr Hyde was on stage created a chilling dimension to the play; the absolute commitment by the actions as these creatures verged on the comical in how creepy and terrifying they were.
Much of the play was dealt with in a simple and minimalistic way. The costumes were perfect for the era of the tale; they were neither striking in their appearance nor understated but set the mood and time of the play seamlessly. The stage was simple in its design with few items of furniture and a black background with white outlines of houses. The thin veil in the middle of the stage was cleverly made used of, with light shining from behind, presenting characters in dark silhouettes, which created a very powerful scene and image when the audience sees the transformation of Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde for the first time.
The simplicity of presenting the split personality of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by changing his accent from an ordinary speaking man into the (very convincing) Scottish accent was surprisingly powerful. The humour and the dark intensity of the play were perfectly balanced, from the witty, light humour of the snubbed, snobbish Butler performed brilliantly by Beth Ryan to the sinister nature of the play not being shied away from; the distressing death scenes of Carew (Zoe Greatbach) and the treatment of the maid Annie (Sian Duggan).
The UEA Drama Society has created a truly absorbing piece of theatre where the dark world of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has very vividly been brought to life and deserves a viewing by any theatre goer.