As the autumn nights draw in there is nothing like curling up in front of a roaring fire with a classic novel from the Victorian golden age. And this production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless horror is the theatrical equivalent of that most enjoyable of seasonal traditions.
It helped having the good fortune to catch the production at Leeds’ City Varieties – a unique time capsule of a venue from the regional music hall heyday – but as it trundles its way up and down the country between now and the end of November there is little reason not to suspect it will not offer an equally satisfying evening’s entertainment whatever the house.
Not of course that there is anything particularly cosy about the story or the treatment here. There are some moments of true horror in this energetic three-hander as it chronicles the misguided doctor as he is subsumed by the evil Hyde. This after all was Stevenson’s warning letter to the 20th century on how the honest intentions of science can all too easily be perverted for a twisted and unseen end.
Director Nick Lane has a number of successful adaptations already under his belt including Moby Dick, Frankenstein and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. He is set to turn his intentions next to Jane Eyre for Truck’s 2013 spring tour. Jekyll & Hyde is a traditional enough adaptation without being safe or unambitious.
Lane explores the scientific ideas of the day and the development of neuroscience without it feeling like a foundation lecture in 'A' level psychology. Much of the success is down to the performances, most notably James Weaver as Jekyll and Hyde, although neither John Gully nor Joanna Miller in a variety of other roles is left wanting at any point.
The final scene of the first act is one of true and breathtaking violence which elevates the production beyond that of mere reassuring costume drama. Although Stevenson was long considered a writer of the second order this is an intriguing and thought-provoking piece, well-acted and evenly staged that surely offers more than enough incentive to lure you away from the hearth and out into the autumn night to visit your local theatre.
Touring to 30 November