Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a pretty classic story. A Slightly Isolated Dog’s 2017 Jekyll & Hyde is very much not a classic play.
Currently showing at Auckland CBD’s Basement Theatre, Jekyll & Hyde, directed by Leo Gene Peters, is a return season of the 2016 show and a sequel of sorts to A Slightly Isolated Dog’s very popular Don Juan.
I reviewed and very much enjoyed Don Juan last year, so I was pretty darn eager for Jekyll & Hyde. Upon walking into the theatre, audience members are greeted by the five person cast. Donning French accents and a wealth of compliments, almost everyone is given an accessory of sorts to wear – a scarf, a headband, a fruity hat. By the time the actors are done the line between actor and audience has begun to blur.
As we follow Dr Jekyll’s foray into Mr Hyde, the darkness within emerges as a major theme, and audience members are repeatedly advised to push this darkness down. However, the show is focused more on the amusing interactions between the cast and audience than the plot. It’s when the actors move away from the story into bizarre pseudo-personal anecdotes, or when audience members are introduced as characters, that the show really shines.
Highlights include Claudine (Hayley Sproull) delving into her debts and apologizing to nice guy audience member Robyn for the money she borrowed that she never planned to pay back. Phillipe (Jonathan Price) invents a story of unrequited love between himself and an audience member (Billie), bringing up monologues about their former time together throughout the play. Billie actually delivers the best burn of the show, telling Phillipe she “needs a man not a boy” – a line that literally causes the entire audience to gasp in unison.
The main fault of Jekyll & Hyde is its staging. The audience is split on either side, but bizarrely one side has an aisle in the middle while the other doesn’t. It’s a bit pathetic, but my pals and I were seated on the non-aisle side and didn’t see a lot of up close action of the actors. In a show that’s built around audience interaction, this was pretty gutting.
Jekyll & Hyde is a very fun show. Drawing a lot of its gags from its predecessor Don Juan, it definitely at times feels repetitive but by no means stale. If you’re looking for a good time, some guaranteed laughs and maybe even a few cheeky free shots during intermission, then it’s the show for you.
Jekyll & Hyde runs until July 15th at Basement Theatre. Tickets are available here.