To dispense with the predictable major worries first: no, the twitches and spasms of transformation aren't over-melodramatic and yes, Hyde is suitably repulsive even without cosmetic aid, conveying (as Stevenson wrote) a horrible impression of deformity without actually being misshapen in any specific way. In fact, short of having Spencer Tracy in the company, this is the most compelling stage presentation of the story that you could wish for.
Both faces of Victorian fur-coat-an'-nae-knickers Edinburgh are economically evoked: the prosperous, solid New Town with its respectable burghers descending into the foggy closes of the Old Town for their ration of depravity. A few seconds of gently billowing drapery are enough to establish an atmosphere and set a scene, in which faultless individual and ensemble acting bring out the relentless horror; not serial-killer splatter-movie shocks, but the pervasive and growing revulsion at the beast beneath the skin in all of us. Put like that it's trite, of course, and ideologically the story remains a product of its time (yes, token women again), but the concentrated dramatic power of this production brushes all such cavils aside and simply grips non-stop for two hours.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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