Thursday, 26 May 2016

'Jekyll & Hyde' at The Old Vic

Drew McOnie's new dance show, 'Jekyll & Hyde' opened at The Old Vic last week so what better way to round off my 'Horror Week' (after seeing 'Frankenstein' and 'Doctor Faustus') than to see this creepy old tale. It's only playing for another few performances so you'd better get along quick if you want to see it. It's quite special in its own way since it's the first dance production at The Old Vic in over a decade and The Old Vic was the previous home of Sadler's Wells, London's dance capital. It was also the home of the National Theatre but this isn't a history lesson.

The Robert Louis Stevenson tale is re-imaged so that Dr Jekyll now runs a florists shop with his botanical laboratory in the back room where he experiments with growth potions. One day in the late 1950s a beautiful woman comes in to buy some flowers and he's smitten. Luckily Dahlia forgets her handbag so he chases her over London to give it back. He finds her working in a gym where the local hard man appears to think he owns her and he becomes Jekyll's nemesis. They also go to a dance club with young people dancing to the latest cool jazz sounds where he's humiliated by gym-guy. That's it, so he drinks his own growth potion strengthened by his blood and voila, Mr Hyde is born and he beats several shades out of the gym bullies.

Hyde becomes habit-forming for Jekyll and he also becomes more vicious, eventually starting to kill people. So we see love blossom between Jekyll and Dahlia while Hyde begins to lose control. Scenes alternate between the dance club and the shop but eventually Dahlia sees the truth and that's when Jekyll and Hyde take the stage together to struggle for supremacy. I won't tell you the end in case you're going to see it but it's a shocker.

It's a great production, joyful one moment and scary the next, keeping you on the edge of your seat for what might happen next. Of course, we all know that Jekyll and Hyde are the sane person so to see them struggle on stage together was a bit spectacular. The story-telling is excellent and takes you on a journey of love and its consequences. The dancing is, of course, excellent and I loved the Gene Kelly moments of Jekyll and Dahlia dancing side by side.

There's an incredibly athletic segment in the gym where the bully takes on all-comers with loud power-chord guitar to make a break from the cool jazz of most of the show. This is sort of reprised later in the show when the trendy folks become enslaved to the smell of flowers (a sub-plot) and dance around in their underwear. Such is the power of drug addiction. Part of me loves the idea than an addiction is to flowers! It's so much more civilised than being addicted to booze or drugs.

The set was great fun, with the dancers moving it round under their own power, swinging the big panels around to create a new room and space and the lighting was great too, very atmospheric. With any show like this, it stands or falls by the quality of the dancers and there are some excellent dancers in this production. The most fluid and bendy Daniel Collins plays Jekyll, from solo athletic and balletic dances to lovely sequences dancing like Gene Kelly with Rachel Muldoon as Dahlia. They're both really good. I've seen Daniel in Matthew Bourne's New Adventures productions over the years and most recently as the song and dance man in 'Show Boat'. It's about time we had a new dance star and that star could well be his for the taking.

It's a great show and if you can nab a ticket then I urge you to do so. It's been getting such a great reception that I'd be surprised if it wasn't transferred somewhere later in the year - it certainly deserves a wider audience. Five stars from me!

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