Monday, April 28, 2008


Little Baddow Drama


Just months after Stevenson's tale first hit the bookshops, work had begun on a stage version. This was not that play. Nor was it the David Edgar version for the RSC.

Leonard H Caddy's fascinating but flawed play emphasises the social, scientific and sexual aspects of the classic story, and veers between social comedy and melodrama.

John Peregrine's painstaking production had all the virtues for which Little Baddow is famous. A beautifully dressed set, with the laboratory and the street spilling out into the auditorium, excellent use of music, careful costuming. And, of course, blue-chip acting from the repertory company, with the welcome addition of guest star Robert Bastian as the doomed doctor and his awful antagonist. In a slightly mannered but always mesmeric performance, he suggested the transformation without make-up or trickery – a modulation of the voice, a twitch of the eyebrow, and the “mysterious and evil” Edward Hyde was there before us.

As in Greek tragedy, much of the action is narrated. Lanyon's letter becomes an affecting monologue, faultlessly delivered by Ken Rolf. His niece, Jekyll's intended and an awful snob, was Lindsay Lloyd, and the trustworthy Utterson Paul Randall.

Gill Peregrine was the other woman, Kenton Church gave a polished performance as the butler, with believable backstairs support from Barbara Newton [a collectable character cameo]and Sarah Trippett-Jones, excellent as the orphan girl preyed upon by both sides of the compound personality.

Despite its spine-chilling moments, this tried hard to be a play of ideas – nature vs nurture, neuroscience, the other spirit that lies underneath ... Interesting, and well put over by the actors, but not really dramatic in any meaningful sense. A long evening, then, but rewarding and thought-provoking. And the Saturday-night audience loved it, screeching and whooping as if they were at Jerry Springer – now there's a thought: “Hyde in the closet – I dumped my fiancĂ©e for sex on the other side of the tracks ...”

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