CLOC have a stellar show on their hands in Jekyll and Hyde.
Direction by Shaun Kingma was inspired. Upon entering the auditorium, we were greeted with a soundscape that gave a sense of unease. This coupled with the house lights flickering at random intervals let the audience know that the show would go to places where things would not be quite right. Kingma more than delivered on his vision for the show. Dichotomy was ever present – key characters shown in light while onlookers watched from the shadows; the central part of the set with all of its intricate filigree playing against the streamlined and almost sterile feel of the downstage frames; muted greys with black and white offset by the occasional well chosen hue in a red chair or blue light.
The staging itself was highly effective. Highlights include: Jekyll’s formula work in ‘I Need To Know’ – a clever projection that expanded and exploded as Jekyll worked towards the definitive recipe for HJ7; Hyde’s pursuit of Lucy after his first transformation – a stage plunged into blackout, moving flashes of light, the eerie underscore, Lucy’s anxiously breathing high into her chest, and the use of body doubles to make Hyde appear to be omnipresent all combined to let the audience feel Lucy’s horror and Hyde’s chilling thrill of the chase; Hyde’s victims being present to witness the undoing and public humiliation of Jekyll; and The Confrontation – Kingma had clearly worked very closely with Mark Doran (who portrays Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde) to create a scene that was so well crafted that it had a strong feeling of spontaneity.
In line with Kingma’s vision, costume designer Victoria Horne was charged with bringing out the elements of colour vs black and white, period vs modern, and natural vs stylised. The area in which Horne was the most successful was period vs modern, notably in the ladies’ costuming: beautifully crafted corseted bodices and sleeves which flared at waist and elbow were a clear nod to the Victorian fashions from the era of Robert Louis Stevenson’s source novella. Accompanying the ladies’ period bodices were trousers, mini skirts or shortened period-style hemlines, which added the desired modern element.
Wig design by David Wisken brought the element of black and white vs colour desired by Kingma’s concept. Visually stunning was the wig worn by Lady Beaconsfield: black with a shocking streak of white, the sleek up-do was accessorised by an elaborate hairpin which would be play a crucial role in her downfall. Every time she was on stage, it was impossible to overlook Lucy – a vibrant red wig used to make her stand out from the rest. It was as though it marked her as ‘other’: different from Hyde in gentleness, different to Emma and Jekyll in status, and ranked above the girls at the Red Rat.
In his director’s notes, Kingma outlined the idea of natural vs stylised performances, and choreographer Tamara Finch brought both sides of that particular concept to her movement for the cast. Jekyll and Hyde is not what you would consider to be a ‘dance show’, so it was great to see Finch showcase the talent within the cast: a beautiful pas de deux performed upstage during ‘Take Me As I Am’ was a high point in the natural form of dancing. Finch’s work on the more stylised approach shone through in numbers like ‘Murder Murder’ – sharp and sudden from the full cast added to the air of fear and uncertainty, while the synchronicity of their actions portrayed a community pulling together amidst the horror.
Brenton Staples designed the original set that was used by CLOC for Jekyll and Hyde in 2005, and it has been used once again for this production. This impressive central piece is a gothic-inspired framework was repositioned into innumerable configurations by a very capable stage crew who worked with a military precision. Credit must be given to stage manager Sandra Davies for overseeing the flawless transitions from moment to moment.
Lighting designer Brad Alcock has played a key role in the show, quite literally bringing the light and dark elements of the good vs evil concept to life. Crucial to the plot was the Boy lurking in the shadows while he watched Jekyll’s every move so he could report back to Stride: Alcock’s lighting of intimate moments between Emma and Henry allowed them to be the focus while having just enough light spill to make the Boy barely visible. Backlighting allowed the intricate latticework of Staples’ set to cast shadows on the stage floor, while splashes of blue/purplish light shone through from certain angles on the stage to bring a gentler mood, as needed. I particularly enjoyed the lighting during ‘Alive’ when Hyde was seemingly caged by light.
Tyson Legg has done an excellent job as musical director. The assembled orchestra were tight in their playing, with never a note out of place. A shout out must go to the stunning piano and guitar work during ‘Sympathy, Tenderness’. Legg’s thorough and accurate work with the talented cast is clearly evidenced by their vocal performances. When the full cast of 22 players sang as one, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a cast of double that size was involved, such was the strength and security of the harmonies – just a wonderfully brilliant sound!
Marcello Lo Ricco’s sound design was largely successful, with just the occasional moment when the balance between the cast and the orchestra was too heavy on the pit side of things and overshadowed the onstage vocals. Most effective were the soundscapes, as mentioned earlier: the mood set by the rumblings before the show began – were we hearing low tones of music, or a distant rolling thunder? ; the mood created by Lucy’s anxious breathing and the building underscore certainly made us feel her rising fear.
Mark Doran gives an impressive performance in the titular roles of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. The vocal tone ‘split’ needed to differentiate between the two is well defined, with his rounded tenor tones of Jekyll giving way to a darker and deeper quality as Hyde. It was as Hyde that Doran appeared to be more at home, vocally speaking. A highlight of the first act, Doran’s commanding rendition of the iconic ‘This Is The Moment’ was marred slightly by some abrupt phrase endings near the end of the song; this was quickly forgiven as Doran delivered a solid and sustained final note which would be the envy of many a professional. Doran brought the necessary physicality to his performance to further delineate Jekyll from Hyde, particularly during ‘The Confrontation’ as each struggled to physically overcome the other.
Rachel Rai is a knockout as Lucy Harris. Her powerhouse vocals were showcased each and every time she sang: be it ‘Bring on the Men’, ‘In His Eyes’ or ‘A New Life’, Rai showed strength as well as subtlety. She brought to Lucy the right mix of bravado and vulnerability, allowing the audience to feel empathy for a woman trapped in an awful and inescapable situation. Such was the brilliance of Rai’s performance, she deserved a solo curtain call.
After an uneven start during the engagement party, Catherine Hancock came into her own as Emma Carew during ‘Take Me As I Am’, her clear vocal tone well matched to Doran’s Jekyll. ‘Once Upon a Dream’ allowed Hancock to bring a real tenderness to Emma, her voice exuding a comforting softness as she rocked a disturbed Jekyll in her arms.
In the role of narrator and best friend, Daniel Mottau gave John Utterson both strength and gentleness, traits which were reflected in his vocal delivery. ‘His Work and Nothing More’ was so beautifully delivered by Mottau that you couldn’t help but wish to hear more from the character.
Other notable performances were given by Jon Sebastian as the Minister, his tenor voice gliding through key moments in ‘Murder Murder; Angel Dolejší was so deserving of a good slap right back in face as Lucy’s pimp, Spider; and Stephanie Powell’s charmingly cheeky Nellie.
CLOC’s Jekyll and Hyde inspired, polished, and moving. The season runs through to Saturday October 27th, with tickets available from https://cloc.org.au/