Jekyll and Hyde theatre review: a missed opportunity to set the stage alight ★★★

"Depth is lost in the repetitiveness of the choreography – sweeping, leaping, though at its finest moments, witty too," says Sarah Carson

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Few tales are ripe for dance adaptation like Robert Louis Stevenson’s eerie 19th century novella of split personalities and the warring pulls of morality. The twist in Drew McOnie’s Jekyll and Hyde, at the Old Vic, is that the action is transplanted to the Fifties, and Dr Jekyll (played by Dan Collins) is a shy, nerdy florist. With the help of overwrought electric guitar, in the story’s transformation to a colourful, rock-and-roll melodrama it loses most of its creaking, sinister chill.

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In this reimagining, tired of being overlooked by women, Dr Jekyll uses a powerful fertiliser to transform himself into irresistible, troubled, violent alter ego Mr Hyde (Tim Hodges), before, as we all know, the two selves collide in a brutal, bloody climax.

Soutra Gilmour’s revolving set is impressive; a bright, blooming flower shop-cum-potions lab that doubles as a jive bar and bedroom later on. The cast, too, deliver energy and conviction – Collins in particular is a joy to watch as the bashful Dr Jekyll, all muscles and hips, and Rachel Muldoon is charming, bringing delight to the steps of fated lover Dahlia.

But depth is lost in the repetitiveness of the choreography – sweeping, leaping, though at its finest moments, witty too. Where, for example, Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands deftly manages to evoke empathy in its isolation, sorrow, and tragedy, the music here feels jumbled and unsubtle; and seems to preclude a possible emotional response to the darker elements of the piece.

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Individual performances were worthy of much praise – though the group dances fell flat – but this felt like something of a missed opportunity to bring the more universally unsettling notes of this Victorian story to the stage.