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A CurtainUp London Review
The Man Inside
by Tim Newns
The story is centralised on the relationship between Jekyll, his fiancé Katherine (Alexandra Fisher) and Lizzie (Jessie Lilley) a prostitute. We very quickly learn of Jekyll's experiments and the creation of Hyde and subsequently the downfall of all their lives. Plot is relatively thin in this three-man piece and at just over an hour long, the inevitable result is there are a few too many links missing in the chain.
The production is best served by some lovely musical moments. Rees's emotive and melodic score is enjoyable and fits the story smartly. All the songs seem to blend together well with a nice undercurrent of gloom and foreboding. 'Now's The Time!' is a particularly catchy number which takes us through the dramatic transformation itself and 'Soho' is reminiscent of Les Miserables's 'Lovely Ladies', transporting us to the graceless Soho streets of Victorian London.
All three performances are good and the quality of the singing reaches far past the walls of the Landor. Willetts is a very watchable and generous performer, with an impressive vocal range. He seems to make the best of slightly stiff direction but some moments slip into a rather cheesy 'slasher movie' feel, not helped by a slight overuse of red light filter and smoke. The intimate stage of the theatre does help to create a rather claustrophobic and intense atmosphere and the proximity of the audience adds to the general feeling of anxiety.
However, being so close doesn't allow for any discrepancy and badly timed lighting cues with slightly unrefined exits and entrances do put the production in danger. The rising of intensity and fear is crucial to the play and if time is allowed for tweaking and sharpening in these elements then our attention won't be so often distracted. The production, given the stage's limitations, is technically ambitious and that deserves credit but with a more subtle attitude and a 'less is more' understanding the scenes of horror would be much more effective. Particular appreciation should be for the musical direction of Matheson Bailey who accompanies the play with a tempo of suitable aggression. An accomplished pianist, he coaxes the audience through a variety of themes and emotions.
This is a fair and likeable version of a well-known story with appealing songs and music. Yet some wrong choices, a slight lack of plot depth and a rather bizarre ending stop the production from fulfilling its potential and that can be frustrating.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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