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Boundary Players - Jekyll and Hyde

7th to 11th February 2006.

This was the NWN review.

Health warning

Boundary Players: Jekyll and Hyde, at The William Penney Theatre, AWE Aldermaston, from February 7 to 11

Mild-mannered, gentle Dr Jekyll is convinced that there is a 'hidden man' lurking inside us all, what Freud would come to call the Id, and as the play begins Jekyll is about to start his chemical experiments to uncork his Id. He turns into the thoroughly nasty Mr Hyde, but can't stop himself from continuing with the experiment, with murderous consequences. No happy ending here, as Jekyll takes the gentleman's way out, and kills himself.

Clearly the main part of Jekyll/Hyde is crucial to the success of the production, and Clive Lewington had a difficult job on his hands. As Jekyll, the characterisation was at first rather one-dimensional, but his interactions with fiancée Celestine gave it a lively spark. As Hyde, looking disconcertingly like Rigsby from Rising Damp, he was able to go over the top, and obviously enjoyed this side of it. His transformations between Jekyll and Hyde were sensitively handled, especially at the end.

Kristen Johnston was wickedly unpleasant as Celestine, and it was hard to feel sorry for her when her relationship with Jekyll collapsed. As Poole the butler, David Stephenson was a bit too snooty, but he showed how good he could be in the final scene with Utterson, played by George Menarry.

Lisa Bates was excellent as Charlotte the maid, bringing lots of emotion to this important role. Michelle Middleditch's feisty cockney woman Penny, implausibly in love with Hyde, spiced up the action. Dr Lanyon was played by Colin Webb, with a fine performance at the end when he realised what Jekyll had done. The other maid, Hilda, was played by Jean Mead.

The set was impressively classy, taking advantage of the theatre's large stage to have the parlour and laboratory side by side.

In a melodrama such as this, the director has to decide whether to play it straight or for laughs. Director Pat Archer went for the straight approach (we guessed this because there were no smoking, bubbling multi-coloured phials of liquid in the laboratory!) and it didn't quite work - we wanted to laugh in some of the Hyde sequences, then embarrassed ourselves when we did. Nevertheless, the play showed the dire consequences of messing with recreational drugs.