Comic reimagining of classic Jekyll and Hyde tale at Roman Theatre in St Albans

Jekyll & Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll and Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Andrew Alton

Deborah Heath reviews Jekyll and Hyde by the National Production Company at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll & Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll and Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Andrew Alton

Our Roman Theatre Festival continues to delight with a fantastic range of shows.

This time it is an upbeat comic reimagining of the classic gothic tale 'Jekyll and Hyde' by Robert Louis Stevenson brought to us by the National Production Company. 

There have been so many versions of this wonderful story over the years from the chilling 1920s silent movie to the hilarious Tom and Jerry 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Mouse'. 

I was immediately drawn to the idea of this family friendly show (12+), attending with a 14-year-old for good measure.

Jekyll & Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll and Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Andrew Alton

The atmosphere was very well set from the beginning with 'Danse Macabre' from Saint-Saëns. In fact, the choice of music was superb throughout the whole show.

A nod to radio detective Paul Temple during a murder scene was made with 'The Coronation Scott' and the surprising use of 'Gangster’s Paradise' was a stroke of genius during the potion mixing scene. 

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The scenery was good too, with the lab to one side and a simple Victorian parlour centre stage in front of a free-standing door.

I was a little confused about the use of this door which wasn’t always consistent with people walking through walls.

Jekyll & Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll and Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Andrew Alton

However, I think that was probably their intention as this was a play within a play, with inept 'actors' making mistakes.

I must applaud their use of props as transient scenery, for instance picture frames as windows which were moved around to set the scene. The company executed this so well that I would have liked to see more of this technique.

One of my favourite sections was when Utterson the lawyer knocked on the door and his host looked through the window he was holding, confiding in the audience that the most boring man he knew had come to call. 

And what of the real actors? They were a very well-functioning, energetic team of three with the addition of a “work experience” man as a sort of stage hand.

Jekyll & Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll and Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Andrew Alton

All three had a clear talent for physical theatre, slapstick and character comedy. We loved James Tanton’s portrayal of Paul the servant, which provided some comic relief in the darker moments.

Philip Williams as Utterson the lawyer expertly played this role whilst also being our story guide, which is not an easy job.

Our favourite moment of the whole play was the end of Act I when Samuel Wall changed from Jeykll to Hyde – his physicality was outstanding!

Jekyll & Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans.

Jekyll and Hyde presented by the National Production Company can be seen at the Roman Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Andrew Alton

Interestingly, when James Tanton took on the role of Hyde later it was evident who he was because the physical characterisation of the role was so clear.

If I have one recommendation to the National Production Company it would be to have more faith in their inherent talent for comedy and thus to re-examine the use of “things going wrong” jokes which felt rather overplayed.

This device simply wasn’t necessary because the comedy came naturally from their physical characterisation and writer Penni Tanton’s lovely puns “let’s seek Hyde!”

I look forward to seeing more work from the National Production Company during this week – 'Twisted Tales' and 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' are on offer – and have no doubt that their energy, comedic talent and great teamwork will enable them to deliver the goods!

For upcoming shows at the Roman Theatre Festival, visit https://ovo.org.uk/