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Review | 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' exceeds expectations

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde | His Majesty’s Theatre | til Feb 19 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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It was hard to ignore the air of anticipation when my companion and I entered His Majesty’s Theatre – a majestic Edwardian building that has been graced by countless performances over its long history. We were soon swept up in the awe-inspiring beauty surrounding us, but little did we know just how special this evening would be; what followed was a performance that left us captivated beyond words!

A beautiful Welcome to Country set the stage for the journey that was about to unfold, and a hush spread through the auditorium as the first few notes transported us to another time and place.

Now it’s fair to say, there may be some of you who do not know the renowned gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a fascinating exploration of human nature that has stood the test of time and is told primarily from the perspective of London-based lawyer Gabriel John Utterson as he investigates the disturbing presence of shadowy figure, Edward Hyde, in the life of his old friend Dr Henry Jekyll.

A timeless classic is reborn with Kip Williams’ innovative direction from the Sydney Theatre Company. His masterful adaption both honours the brilliance of its source material and adds unique dimensions that skilfully enhance and elevate – demonstrating that real art can blend fidelity with imagination.

By intertwining literature, theatre, and film in intricate layers, a visually sumptuous synthesis was created. Expert camera operators capture onstage moments, which are relayed across multiple ever-shifting split screens; yet we remain largely oblivious to these mechanics. And the seamless blending of pre-filmed sequences and live performances prompts us to consider whether increased exposure helps or hinders our understanding of reality; can we ever be completely sure what’s true?

Matthew Backer and Ewen Leslie are two truly astounding performers, effortlessly drawing us into the richness of the characters with a powerful presence and mastery of their craft. This captivating work reveals the dualism and duplicity of the personalities and could very easily be a reflection of ourselves. It brings to light our contemporary human experience of presenting an addictive false sense of perfection in the public realm while trying to conceal our true selves.

I could go on about the genius of incorporating cutting edge performance technology in a Victorian play – a period that was all about advancement in its own right – or the usage of black and white stylised cinematography as a nod to the melodramas of the time, and I know I won’t be the only reviewer to mention the breathtaking staircase sequence: The production celebrates layered symbolism in all its manifestations.

My only regret is that I missed seeing this creative team’s previous smash hit The Picture of Dorian Gray, but if I understood correctly, there is one more to come in their Gothic trilogy adaptions and my hopes are pinned on Frankenstein.

It is important to note that this production is showing as part of Perth Festival, which is celebrating 70 years of excellence in the Arts, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is truly a jewel in the crown of an incredible legacy. Evoking both admiration and awe for its creative exploration of an abounding text; the Perth Festival has allowed us to experience a stunning show that exceeds expectations.

Don’t miss your chance to experience its brilliance for yourself!

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde runs at His Majesty’s Theatre for Perth Festival until February 19.

Evelynn Tymms


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