Review: Jekyll & Hyde (Isaac Theatre Royal)
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
I can't say I have encountered many theatre companies that stick to a strict formula. Yet, when I heard that A Slightly Isolated Dog were coming to Christchurch, adopting the same "very very famous, and very very French" personas as they are known for, and with a story that sounded like it had more than a few similarities with they're Christmas show "Santa Clause", I was thrilled. Sure, it may be a repeat of what I have seen before, but it'll definitely be a good time.
For those unfamiliar with the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel, it introduces us to Doctor Henry Jekyll. Forced to hide his secret desires, he discovers a way to transform himself beyond recognition into a man called Edward Hyde, who indulges in all the dark urges that Jekyll has to resist. This production is a loose adaption and one that appears to reposition itself depending on where it is being performed, in this case Christchurch.
A Slightly Isolated Dog do appear to be on familiar territory with this. It has one central character, whom they all take turns to perform as with a wig, a torch, and a surprisingly unsettling voice-altering microphone. It has a narrative that sees that character go from hero to villain. Hell, the scene in which a fight breaks out is identical to its festive counterpart. They are a theatre company focused on the entertainment value of their shows, and their formula comes so naturally to them as performers that it's easy to see why they stick to it.
Really though, the similarity matters very little. The show is semi-improvised, and so with their blend of audience interaction and innovative conventions (a recurring joke about repressing inner darkness never failed to make me laugh, and had me and my fellow audience members acting like we were in watching a pantomime) it always feels fresh. The touches of theatrical creativity were clever and atmospheric as well, such as draping a thin veil over the audience to give the impression of fog. Their intimate style of performance (done in theatre in the round) wasn't particularly well suited to the space of the Isaac Theatre Royal, which is as traditional and elegant as it sounds. Nonetheless, they made the best out of the space they had.
"Jekyll and Hyde" is infused with an infectious fun and campy style, along with genuine understated talent in their comic timing and singing, featuring renditions of Azealia Banks' "212" and System of a Down's "Chop Suey". It's not a show for a cynic, but at the same time, it is not solely for those people itching to be in the front row of every show. One thing is for certain; this is the sexiest, most chaotic adaption of "The Strange Case" that you are ever likely to see. Four stars.