REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde by Four of Swords Theatre at Poltimore House
Huddling at the front door of the imposing, derelict 16th century Poltimore House in the dark autumnal chill of the evening, we had been summoned from the chapel by our guide, one of the cast, who led us inside.
There, before the first step of the wide, old staircase, the story began, in a dimly lit lawyer’s office. This is the first time we met Jekyll, we don’t see much of him again as his nasty alter-ego, the dark side of his soul, Hyde, takes over.
We were led through the gloom of the house, following the characters from room to room, which took the form of the streets of London to Jekyll’s laboratory.
The innovative use of film, projected onto the walls enhanced the drama unfolding within our reach and added another dimension to the storytelling.
Clever and moody lighting added to the sinister atmosphere created by the modest cast, and was subtley and effortlessly executed.
The sound effects were created from a four-piece gypsy folk band, fiddler, flautist, guitarist, cellist – their music and effecting use of their instruments, provided an evocative and eerie soundscape.
The darting, staring eyes, actor Philip Kingslan John captured Hyde’s evil and menace so well he had members of the audience recoiling and receding back to avoid his stare. He brought this fictional gothic persona to life and had us transfixed.
Hyde was supported by an impressive and convincing cast. And the expert direction of Sarah White was evident in the way the characters complimented one another, and in their positioning, thoughtful to the location of the 30-strong audience, throughout the space.
This was the debut production of Four of Swords Theatre (White and John) established last year, and a percentage of the proceeds will go towards Poltimore’s ambitious restoration project.
The setting of the play at the crumbling property flattered completely the unfolding of this classic horror.
There’s only one problem with intimate and almost tangible theatre like this, the kind that which surrounds you, whisks you up and takes you with it – you won’t want to go back to sitting in an auditorium again.