By Flora Norton
Leslie Bricusse’s musical Jekyll and Hyde is a spectacular conglomeration of music and story-telling and is a wonderful example of the role that period dramas still play in Melbourne’s theatre scene.
Anthony Warlow’s performance alone is utterly harrowing and the dramatic presence of the orchestra in conjunction with some powerful musical numbers make the show thoroughly compelling while doing justice to Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story.
I must say, after having been to countless pieces of innovative and modernised theatre it was somehow refreshing to see something so traditional and classic, and completely unembellished by the special effects and that we have become accustomed to in modern theatre.
Playing both Dr Jekyll and his twisted alter-ego Mr Hyde, Anthony Warlow brings his talent to the stage managing to flit seamlessly between the two characters. He does so without the aid of costume changes or prosthetics yet manages to transform his voice and body to portray the villain with convincing and terrifying vigour. Though frightening in his uncanny voice and ruthless violence, Warlow’s Mr Hyde is also strangely likeable and scattered moments of comic relief break the building tension and have the audience laughing in spite of themselves.
His performance is complimented by Jemma Rix’s engaging portrayal of the prostitute Lucy, who becomes both the love interest of Dr Jekyll and the final victim of Mr Hyde. The energy and emotion with which she sings ‘Bring on the men,’ has the audience captivated and secures our sympathy making it one of the most powerful numbers in the show.
The relationship that develops between Rix and Warlow is mesmerising and the contrast between her attraction to both Jekyll and Hyde only emphasises the tragic ending.
The notable presence of the orchestra throughout consistently reinforces the atmosphere of the musical and the conductor Vanessa Scammell should be commended on her ability to reflect and embody the mood of every scene. The music brings a rare energy and elegance to the show tying the scenes together and accentuating the moments of tragedy, humour and tension.
Moreover, the story itself is engaging the has the audience captivated right up until the final bows questioning morality, hypocrisy and the blurred lines between what is good, what is evil and what can be justified in the name of the greater good. In a time when the distinction between these values can sometimes seem more distorted than ever, the story also has eerie relevance making it all the more powerful.
The musical is performed on an almost bare stage both behind and in front of the symphony orchestra. The bleak costumes and dark lighting contribute the gothic feel of the Victorian era in which the story is set enabling the audience to step back in time and enter a world of injustice, classism and poverty. Even the contrast between the higher and lower sections of the stage serve as a harsh reminder of the separation between the likes of Lucy, and the world of privilege and wealth which preside over her.
Elegant, disturbing and compelling, Jekyll and Hyde is an absolutely unmissable recreation of the classic tale, and a truly unforgettable exposition of Australia’s talent.
Image Credit: Phoebe Warlow
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.