Living up to a double challenge with Dr Jekyll at Abbey Theatre, St Albans

LOCAL actor John Stenhouse is not a man to shirk a challenge – and they don’t come much bigger than playing both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the current Company of Ten production at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans.

To describe it as a demanding role would be an understatement and director Angela Stone must have been delighted to have nabbed such an accomplished performer for the role on which the whole production hinges.

Originally written by Robert Louis Stevenson and adapted by David Edgar, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is grimly atmospheric and fittingly the stage is rarely less than in some kind of shadow.

Even the conversations between Jekyll and friends Utterson and Lanyon in the former’s study have a strongly twilight quality about them even though they are far from sinister to begin with.

The play really comes to life when Jekyll takes the potion which transforms him into the murderous Hyde and John Stenhouse interprets that moment memorably.

And he continues to shine even though the play suggests that Hyde is younger than Jekyll and so different in appearance that he can be passed off to Jekyll’s staff as a “friend”.

While the play requires a strong performance in the pivotal role, there are plenty of other good parts for Company of Ten members to get their teeth into.

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Beccy Ashton as the parlourmaid Annie Loader whose curiosity about Jekyll’s dissecting room is her downfall, is very good in the part and Katherine Barry as Jekyll’s sister Katherine sheds much light on her brother’s character by the way she acts with him.

George Edkins as Utterson and Rory Byrne as Lanyon are always good value although using Rory again as Sir Danvers Carew MP was a little confusing.

Roy Bookham, another reliable performer on the St Albans stage, was suitably obsequious as Jekyll’s butler Poole.

But the evening really – and rightly – belongs to John Stenhouse who tackles the enormity of the role with passion and deservedly steps forward for a final bow at the conclusion of the play.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is being performed in the main theatre and runs until Saturday. Tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or online at