between the lines
The playwright Peter Nichols on RL Stevenson's `clumsy' but inspiration al Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Wednesday 17 January 1996
It's because of questions like these that Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - in many ways just a common-or-garden Victorian thriller full of stock-in-trade lowlife - still has the power to intrigue me as a writer.
I found myself picking it up again recently. The funny thing is, the original story is very clumsy, particularly the fact that for most of it you don't know that Jekyll and Hyde are one. Hollywood improved immeasurably on this by following Alfred Hitchcock's dictum that suspense comes when you know there's a body in the box all the way through, not when you're told in one moment of shock at the end.
The book's allegory isn't complicated. But somewhere in there there's a grain of prophecy. In a melodramatic way, Stevenson pre-dated Freud with Jekyll and Hyde, making explicit the division between the conscious and unconscious mind.
A few years ago, I wrote my own version of the story - lots of people have done it - about a vulnerable NHS anaesthetist who takes a drug called Euphoria. It was a parable about the Thatcher years. I've also lately become interested in Holmes and Watson, who have a lot in common with Jekyll and Hyde.
Now, looking back, I realise that long before I began using literary sources for my plays, the split personality or alter ego ran through much of my work. Clumsy though it may be, for me, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde puts its finger on something very potent indeed.
n Peter Nichols's `Privates on Parade' is currently playing at Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, London SE10. Booking: 0181-858 7755/0181-853 3800.
Interview by Adrian Turpin
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party