The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has long captured the fears and imaginations of its readers. It is a Victorian detective story that, among other topics, explores the duality and complexity of man in his societal trappings. So it is a refreshing and surprising twist to find The National Youth Theatre REP Company presents a new interpretation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, that reimagines the central character as a woman, Harriet Jekyll. Written by Evan Placey (Consensual, Girls Like That) and directed by Roy Alexander Weise (Mountaintop, JMK 2016 winner) this radical adaptation works to give voice to the unheard stories of the women of the Victorian era, and the silenced characters that linger on the outskirts of the novella’s narrative.
The play begins by following the story of Dr Jekyll’s widow, Harriet, who fights to take over the mantle of her late husband’s work and in doing so unleashes her alter-ego Flossie Hyde. As the opening act continues, the story unfurls and becomes entwined with a modern-day plot that bring us to an unexpected cliffhanger where the past abruptly meets the present, leaving the audience captivated and intrigued during the interval. Not to reveal any plot spoilers, the second act takes the play to a new and daring place that moves far away from its source text, and shifts deftly between the two narratives to bring us to a conclusion that forces the audience to re-evaluate our preconceptions.
The piece demanded strong character and ensemble work from the performers which was well carried by the NYT REP company, with an excellent sense of ensemble cohesion and enthusiasm that energetically carried the play through to its bold conclusion. Punctuated by some wonderful performances and break out character moments, it will be exciting to see what comes next from the NYT REP’s West End season.
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