Jekyll & Hyde (Chickenshed, 17 October 2018)
Chickenshed's production is admirable, as they have taken Stevenson's text and
created a sung through musical, with its main focus seeming to be to captivate a teenage audience. This makes for engaging viewing, as the production is chronologically re-ordered with a lot of the finer details removed. Despite the minor issues this simplifying creates, the engagement they manage to achieve from a teenage school audience was astonishing.
Entering the theatre, you are immersed in a Victorian London, with the traverse staging being a street leading to Jekyll's front door. The set is excellent, designed by Constance Villemot with a multitude of doors leading off the street and a victorian bridge at one end. The set is well utilised, meaning it never feels
overcrowded by its large cast. The songs are thoughtful, capturing the essence of the story's morals well (particularily a beautiful rendition of 'Poverty's Child' which accompanies the death of a poor girl by Mr Hyde in the shows opening) and the production has some excellent rap sections which feel very inspired by Hamilton. Unfortunately quite a lot of the key information is either missing from the songs or not articulated well, which is a clear requirement for a sung-through musical. For instance apart from Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, the characters names are not used, and often the songs do not actually describe the events but rather the 'mood' of the scene. To overcome this, they have given each scene a 'heading' with projection and this correlates to an article in a mini newspaper which you have been handed at the beginning. Without this, you would be forgiven for not understanding the context of many scenes. From this one would assume the intended audience is an educational one, whom will have studied the book.
The moments that shine are Jekyll's transformations - Nathaniel Leigertwood has excellent physicality in this lead role, and his hip-hop style movement sections captured the audience. The casting throughout in fact is wonderful - as can be expected from Chickenshed, the cast are diverse, full of youthful energy and inclusive. This really is where their strengths lie - even when vocal range may be slightly challenging for them or wordy rapping difficult to enunciate, the fact that the teenage audience can see themselves reflected in the company captures their attention, and the spirited performers do not let them go.