Theatre review: The Strange Case Of Jekyll & Hyde

The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde at Traverse, Edinburgh. Picture: Traverse
The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde at Traverse, Edinburgh. Picture: Traverse
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IT’S ONE of the most striking features of Robert Louis Stevenson’s great 1886 story of Jekyll and Hyde that it contains no named female characters at all; it’s a tale of men living in a patriarchal society where animal impulses are suppressed, until they re-emerge in lethal and uncontrollable forms.

THE STRANGE CASE OF JEKYLL & HYDE

Traverse, Edinburgh

Star rating: ****

What’s thrilling about Morna Pearson’s new play inspired by the original story, though, is that it fully explores what this repressive society meant for women; and when its demands begin to bear down on Pearson’s feisty heroine Miriam Jekyll – crushing her interest in her father’s scientific work, and compelling her into an unwanted marriage – it’s perhaps not surprising that the pressure splits her personality in two, spawning a bold “dark lady” doppelganger, Hyde.

As one of Europe’s leading companies working with adults with learning difficulties, Lung Ha Theatre Company works here with Drake Music Scotland to achieve its usual impressive production standard, transferring the action to Stevenson’s native Edinburgh, and featuring an outstanding, lyrical and pensive musical score by Greg Sinclair, played live by a six-piece band.

Yet there’s even more than this, in Caitlin Skinner’s fine production – in the huge commitment shown by the 17-strong cast, and in a powerful series of central performances led by a moving and witty Emma McCaffrey as Miriam, and inspired by a deep feeling for a story which, in this version, becomes a passionate cry against the prejudice that would confine people to lesser lives, because of an accident of birth.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

• Seen on 20.03.15. Final show, Dundee Rep, 25 March