There are many answers to the question ‘What draws us to the heart of darkness?’ Every theatre director will have his or her own theory. But audiences continue to attend gothic drama, and because there is a demand, there will always be the supply.
Cynthia Pronick and Keith Digby chose to present this 120-year-old Victorian classic with the special effects of fog, lightning storms and people lurking in rocks, and it really works! As well as all the busy-ness of light and sound, we have a really active stage, with 17 people (playing 22 characters) and a prodigious number of scene changes which are accomplished quickly and efficiently. The result is a smooth performance, delivering the expected horror and thrills in a neatly-wrapped two hours.
We all know the story, of a mild-mannered doctor who contains within himself another character prone to violence in the less desirable London neighbourhoods. The original novel was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this adaptation for the stage was by Jeffrey Hatcher. Psychoanalysis was emerging in the late eighteen-hundreds, and the multiple personalities syndrome was barely beginning to be recognized. It should be noted here that Mr. Hyde is represented by three different shadowy people in addition to Justin Guthrie, who plays the role with the appropriate amount of creepiness and menace.
Wayne Yercha gives a very good performance as Dr. Jekyll, slowly allowing his evil side to emerge, but giving it a good fight. Ken Yvorchuk does a creditable Scottish accent as Dr. Lanyon, and Perry Burton is convincingly pompous as Sir Danvers Carew. The part of Utterson is beautifully undertaken by Eric Grace, who keeps some semblance of sanity amid the descent into madness going on around him.
Rosemary Jeffery and Keeley Teuber do well in the women’s parts, as the unflappable maid Poole, and the mercurial Elizabeth. The latter really makes us believe that Mr. Hyde is lovable, which is a key point in this psychological drama.
A word should be said about the sets. Despite their oddity, the aforesaid rocks manage to work, even while taking up an inordinate amount of space on the stage. But is is the projected backdrops, old black and white shots of various parts of London, which really give this play its desired atmosphere.
Well done, Langham Court, for immersing us in another time and place. It was refreshing to come out into a mild spring night, leaving the macabre confined well within the theatre behind us.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde runs at the Langham Court Theatre until May 6. For tickets and information call 250-384-2142 or email firstname.lastname@example.org