Hyde and Seek

Eamon McNally rates Ballywillan Drama Group's Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical

Jekyll and Hyde was performed off-Broadway for ten years before being discovered, during which time songs from the show became popular favourites.

It has taken time for theatre companies to come to grips with what is undoubtedly a challenging musical work.

There have, of course, been other treatments of Robert Louis Stevenson's morality tale, including a 1941 film starring Spencer Tracy.

Often, the portrayals of the dark side of human nature have been macabre rather than truly wicked. Not so in Ballywillan Drama Group's uncompromising production.

From the opening scene, a stark contrast is set between Jekyll's benevolent nature and its potential to unleash evil.

The refusal of St Jude's hospital to support his work is portrayed as negative and hypocritical, and yet Jekyll's own egotism subtly appears through the veneer of his altruism.

Mark Adamson's performance as both Jekyll and Hyde is a tour de force. The tension between the two characters is built steadily, reaching a peak during ‘Confrontation’, changing persona with each phrase.

The portrayal of Jekyll is never mawkish, but he is a good man. Hyde's self discovery during ‘Alive’ shows us a bewildered creature which is developed through each scene into something truly disturbing.

Jekyll's fiancé, Lucy, and Emma, the prostitute he knows as both Jekyll and Hyde, show another aspect of life's duality.

Both are good women who love the doctor but they are from different worlds: one privileged and one sordid, each with their own versions of good and evil.

Emma is genteel and sweet, Lucy is lusty and loving. The duet ‘In His Eyes’, will raise the hairs on your neck. Their singing, poses and costume all portray the contrasting light and darkness of their circumstances.

However, it is Lucy who first comes to grief. ‘A Dangerous Game’ is downright scary, her ‘New Life’ is tantalising and the manner of her death fulfils our worst fears.

At the end we must wonder at the morality of a man who goes to his wedding knowing what Jekyll knows, but the lyrics invite us to reflect that this is a knowledge we all carry.

In the end love triumphs because the good in man answers it. This show triumphs because of the questions it asks. Ballywillan may be an amateur group but there is nothing amateur about the production.

It tackles the issues head on and makes no concessions to the many challenges posed by this musical.

This is not a show, however,  to take young children to. Neither should you bring prejudice, self righteousness or prudery. However, you will find humility and an open mind of great benefit before you reach the finale.

Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by the standards of this production. All of the supporting cast measure up well to the gutsy and accomplished performances of the three main leads.

Amateur groups have no wages bill and the investment in set, costume and effects is obviously substantial.

The set makes optimal use of available space at the Riverside and the scene changes work well. The levels are cleverly used, but the choreography has to be careful to flow without obstruction.

However there is a lot of 'multi tasking' among the chorus and most of the principal cast. Some of those who reappear in different guises are recognisable from before, especially if their character was distinctive.

Minor criticisms aside, if you want a memorable night out to the theatre for a fraction of the cost of a professional production in the city you could do worse than make a trip to the north coast.

Jekyll & Hyde runs January 17 - February 3. Tickets on 028 7032 3232, or book online.