Review by Hannah Fredriksson
It’s not often that you see a piece of theatre that blows your mind in a way you didn’t know was possible - director Kip Williams has taken the classic horror novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and turned it into an arresting piece of art that doesn’t relent in its momentum from the moment it begins to the second the lights disappear from the stage. This hour-and-fifty-minute production is so meticulously measured and choreographed that it could not afford to break step for a minute to offer the audience an interval, and it’s truly better for it as it maintains the shrewd atmosphere of mystery and tension at a constant tipping point of suspense – welcome to the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
What is truly remarkable about this show is that it occurs not only on the stage in front of you, but live footage is streamed directly to a series of moving screens hanging overhead. Camera operators weave in and out of the unfolding action, showing the drama from various shifting angles that would never be possible to see from a fixed seat in the audience. It’s a rare opportunity for actors and sets to intentionally face upstage and away from the audience, a move that would normally be considered erroneous.
It’s clear from the outset that every frame of the footage is perfectly curated, showing masterful intent and coordination from all involved. The lack of visual distance between the actors and the audience ensures there is no room for error - actors are constantly under intense scrutiny, and therefore every blink, every gesture, is intentional and timely. Every mark must be hit precisely and there are oh so many of them - sometimes four or even five cameras are on the stage, focusing on different people or introducing alternative angles, the multiple fractured perspectives contribute to the spiraling sense of madness as the plot unfolds.
In this production moreso than ever, the crew are just as much a part of the cast as the actors. It’s a big peek behind the veil of ‘production’ - aside from wearing stage blacks, the camera operators and crew are not hidden from the audience in any way, so the transparency of ‘how’ the production occurs is as much a part of the performance as the storyline itself - like the stage-bound answer to a one-shot film.
The dialogue of this adaptation fills almost every single moment. It comes pouring out of the actors with a surgeon-like precision that the audience is required to remain fixated in order to not miss a beat. And with two actors carrying the entirety of the dialogue-heavy production, there is a lot of weight on their shoulders; Matthew Becker and Ewan Leslie masterfully navigate the dialogue with a variety of very proper british accents, and showcasing a range of emotional peaks and troughs with haunting clarity.
The sound production is simply stellar - it supports the tension of the show so effortlessly without pulling focus from the mesmerising visual.
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde breaks new ground and challenges what you know the theatre experience to be - Kip Williams has created a visionary masterclass in blending media and live performance to produce an unprecedented spectacle that grasps your attention and holds it for its entire duration. The production features as part of Perth Festival until 19 Feb and it’s absolutely something to see.