[author-post-rating] (2/5 stars)
This super-camp, massively melodramatic re-telling of Jekyll and Hyde takes itself far too seriously despite all of its self-mockery. Trying to mix gothic horror with inventive silliness is an interesting idea, but one that sadly falls rather flat in Flipping the Bird’s tale. The central idea of this version – that Dr Jekyll is a woman fighting against Victorian traditions – could be a fascinating one, if it were given room to breathe. However, the subtle ideas that are trying to escape Jonathan Holloway’s script are smothered by a very mannered style of acting, and both playwright and director (Jessica Edwards) trying to cram too much into too short a space of time.
The script too often feels leaden and weighed down – yes it has one clever idea, but it is thrown away on a cheap visual trick that undermines any nuance to which the piece might aspire. For all its capering and funny voices, it often feels as though it takes itself so seriously it forgets to have fun with its high melodrama. Gothic horror doesn’t really work any more if it’s done po-faced – modern audiences are too used to flashes and bangs to find creepily atmospheric truly scary unless it is done superlatively well. The music here (composed by Laurence Osborn, and played by Elliott Rennie and Joel Phillimore) is nicely judged to add to the atmosphere, but isn’t enough to ever send a shiver down the spine.
Perhaps, then, the show was going for an intellectual take on the tale, examining how it works if the protagonist is a woman? Perhaps. There’s an awful lot of exposition, though, and despite a fiery performance from Cristina Catalina as Jekyll, it never feels as though this is her story. Michael Edwards is good as her put-upon husband, Henry Utterson, feeling his way through the horror that unfolds around him.
There are parts which do manage to be enjoyable creepy, and the set design (Joanna Scotcher) is stunning – far more elaborate than you usually find in Edinburgh. Scotcher’s set along with Joshua Carr’s clever lighting and Grace Nicolas’s intricate costumes are the best things about this piece. The central premise could have been brilliant, but feels misguided in its current form, and the pay-off at the end doesn’t feel worth the wait.
Jekyll and Hyde is at Assembly Roxy until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.