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Directed by Leo Gene Peters
Produced by A Slightly Isolated Dog
A Slightly Isolated Dog is back with the highly anticipated follow-up to last years’ smash hit, Don Juan! This year they bring you the harrowing, terrifying and yet still exceptionally sexy tale of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
Five crazy clowns invite you to play with them. They bring you in, they get you a drink, they flirt with you a bit and then they invite you to tell the story of Jekyll & Hyde, WITH THEM. This interactive retelling of Stevenson’s classic allows you to release your inner beast. Join us for this explosive and hilarious celebration of boldness and rage.
19 March – 16 April
7.30pm – Tuesday – Saturday
4.30pm – Sunday
$25 Preview – Friday 18 March
$25 Matinee – Sunday 20 March
Friends of Circa (until 3 April) $30,
Under 25s $25
Groups (6+) $30
Proudly Supported by Shoreline Partners
Jekyll & Hyde
Devised by A Slightly Isolated Dog, directed by Leo Gene Peters
Circa Studio, Wellington, 7:30pm (Tuesday to Saturdays and 4.30pm Sundays), until 16 April
The new show at Circa Studio, A Slightly Isolated Dog’s production of Jekyll & Hyde, is one of those shows where to write too much about it gives many of the intriguing surprise elements of the show away.
Suffice to say that the statement of director Leo Gene Peters in the programme notes saying, “We invite you to play with us a bit”, is never more true than in this production, as the five actors Susie Berry, Jack Buchanan, Andrew Paterson, Jonathan Price and Hayley Sproull turn on a high-octane, overly-charged show that defies many conventions of theatre.
To say the show is loosely based on Robert Louis Stephenson’s original story is somewhat of an understatement, although Dr Jekyll’s good deeds in contrast to Mr Hyde’s dastardly ones, and his final comeuppance, do feature.
And while it is never clear why the cast use French accents to tell a very English story, they do add a lot to the humour of the piece, making it look like an episode of the old TV show Eurotrash.
But it is not the story that is at the core of this show, but the way it is presented in a very over the top, camp and hammed-up way, with lots of extraneous strands to the story, often waylaying the cast while interacting with the audience and having to be told to get on with it.
And, as the programme notes say, having fun is the essence of the show, even at times at the expense of artistic integrity.
And although much of the show is structured around improvisation and audience interaction and participation, the cast never allow it to get out of hand, continually keeping a tight rein on where it’s going and moving it forward.
And how they involve the audience is very creative and inventive, with imaginative use of props and the exceptionally clever way they use and incorporate sound effects into the action. It all adds to the madcap mayhem that the cast bring to this very entertaining show.
Just as A Slightly Isolated Dog’s Don Juan did last year, Jekyll & Hyde invites us to play with their play. The five actors affect sexy French accents, masquerading as a “very famous French theatre company”. And they share the title role(s), as and when key elements of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde manage to get a look in amid their deceptively loose playing about.
The French accents made good sense when playing with Molière’s play but it’s a bit puzzling when the source is a late 19th century novella set in London written by a Scotsman. In both cases, however, they set the action in contemporary Wellington to make it all more relevant. I suppose the idea is this “very famous French theatre company” – created by director Leo Gene Peters (who hails from the USA) with young Wellington actors – will be plundering classics that expose our foibles on an annual basis.
And what a talented ensemble they are! Susie Berry, Andrew Paterson and Jonathan Price, from last year’s troupe, are joined by Jack Buchanan and Hayley Sproull. If you listen carefully you may pick up that their actor-tags are Lili, Julie, Phillipe, Bastièn and Claudine respectively. They roam the foyer before the show, befriending the punters with seductively hyperbolic compliments (or that’s what happened to us, anyway, making me think we were back in Don Juan territory).
Just as we all know what ‘being a Don Juan’ means, the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ dichotomy has entered the language as concept without its origins having to be known in detail. It speaks to the capacity for good and evil within us all; the public versus private self; the inner demons we deny at our peril and everyone else’s. It also references self-esteem issues and everyday hypocrisy.
That Dr Jekyll, signified with a neat blond wig, is a good man is evidenced with contemporary examples (e.g. “Shops at Trade Aid”). Yet “he has a darkness within,” we are constantly reminded, “but pushes it down; he pushes it down.”
The examples of what annoys him are likewise relatable to a 21st century audience; indeed one or two are asked to share their pet peeves (and it’s totally OK to say “no” if you don’t want to participate). Claudine’s melt-down phone conversation with a WINZ person is the most memorable for me.
Then there are the temptations he succumbs to that engender self-loathing in the aftermath. It all leads to his creating the potion that gives his darkest urges human form: Mr Hyde, designated with an unruly black wig and a deeply resonant voice thanks to an app on sound designer/operator Blair Godby’s mixing desk.
The live sound effects add enormously to the flair and fun, as do Meg Rollandi’s costume designs, and the spatial and prop designs by Debbie Fish. A range of simple devices are used to thing like the boiling of water, being enveloped in fog, breaking through a door … Indeed we are all handed frames to peer through, casting us in the role of voyeurs. Or neighbourhood watchers?
So while it is tempting to suggest A Slightly Isolated Dog is reversing the purpose of theatre by using the story to present theatre, rather than theatre to present the story, that would be unfair. They have created an ‘immersive experience’ that relocates a classical tale in contemporary life so we can more easily identify the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ in ourselves and maybe even consider our social responsibilities when it comes to witnessing untoward events in our neighbourhoods.
Either way, Berry, Buchanan, Paterson, Price and Sproull work splendidly as an ensemble – with Godby – to ensure 80-odd minutes of stimulating theatre presented with refreshing panache. Whether it is more effective than other genres in reflecting ourselves and our world, and even prompting us to take personal responsibility for “the darkness inside of [us]”, is a matter of private opinion and personal taste.
One thing disappoints, however. On seeing Hayley Sproull and Jack Buchanan on the bill, I felt sure we’d be treated to more of the cleverly crafted, witty, original songs both are renowned for. Instead Jekyll & Hyde draws from the international catalogue – with songs from Muse, Kanye West, Queens of the Stoneage, The Decemberists and System of a Down – which are nevertheless splendidly rendered.
If you missed Don Juan last year, make sure you see Jekyll & Hyde. If you saw Don Juan and liked it, treat yourself to this sequel.
On at Circa, Wellington, until 16 April.
A combination of A Slightly Isolated Dog, the macabre tale of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and ‘audience participation’ makes for a ‘night at the theatre’ a different experience to the norm. Yes, you can sit back and let it wash over you or you can be part of the story.
Leo Gene Peters, Director, says “We wanted to make a party – a place for us to come together and play. Basically, it’s adults playing make-believe …. ”
Jekyll & Hyde is an interactive performance event, a party in the theatre with the audience very much making the show come to life. A sort of 3D theatre experience with audience participation helping create texture and context to an already very good performance by the five exciting and talented cast of Andrew Paterson, Susie Berry, Jonathan Price, Jack Buchanan and Hayley Sproull, with direction from Leo Gene Peters supported by the production team of Meg Rollandi, Debbie Fish and Blair Godby.
While the tale of Jekyll and Hyde provides excellent dramatic material, the comic genre of A Slightly Isolated Dog, complete with French accents creates a black comedy of laugh out loud proportions. Sinister and sexy, the show romps along building to a crescendo when evil swamps goodness and bad things happen to good people!
This is one of those shows you need to sink yourself into to get the most out of it, else you’ll be the wall flower. Playing along is a big part. Don’t let your head rule your heart because you’ll end up sitting on the fence. Not a good place to be for total enjoyment of what is a very clever and entertaining theatre event. I thoroughly recommend Jekyll & Hyde and A Slightly Isolated Dog. What a great cast.
A Slightly Isolated Dog’s new work Jekyll and Hyde builds on their previous work and a classical story and gives their audience the rare opportunity to truly play.
I’m standing in the furnace that is the Circa Theatre foyer, fanning myself with my tickets, when the doors to Circa Two burst open and five deliciously French characters saunter out. Two of them approach me while saying, “Oh my darling you are looking so beautiful tonight. Your hair, I love it! Are you with this man? Oh so gorgeous.” If every play began like this then I would probably enjoy theatre a whole lot more. These compliments do more than simply boost the audience’s self-esteem though, they create a safe space for audience participation before we have even found our seats. But all of this is like deja vu, and not just because the Circa foyer is always hot, but this is also how A Slightly Isolated Dog began Don Juan last year.
Except this is Jekyll and Hyde, their latest work. The comparisons between these two productions extend beyond how they welcome the audience, in some ways they’re exactly the same. Except Jekyll and Hyde is better. We can analyse it like like a successful sequel in a movie franchise, or the second season of a TV show that was just finding its feet during Season 1. And like its predecessor, Jekyll and Hyde creates an atmosphere that transcends the ordinary.
Once all the audience are guided into seats (some brave souls are lovingly convinced to sit on the stage), the “show” can begin. The cast all stop their conversations and flirtations they’re currently having with members of the audience, come together on the stage and introduce themselves with gusto. Each puts as much personality as they can into just saying their name: straight up Lily, sexy Julie, naive Claudine, gentle Sebastien and lovelorn Phillipe. They present themselves as a “very famous and successful French theatre company, here to tell you the story of the wonderful Dr. Jekyll and the naughty Mr. Hyde.” They rip into Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story, but the narrative is simply a vehicle to create an experience, an event, and most importantly a party with its audience.
Director Leo Gene Peters had the same goal for Don Juan, to create a performance that feels like a party on stage; a celebration of the things we try to suppress. The difference being that while Don Juan explores relationships, love and sex, Jekyll and Hyde is interested in more than that. What are the different facets that make up a person? How do they manifest? Can we be good and naughty? What makes us shrink and what makes us come alive? The Jekyll and Hyde story is more successful than Don Juan in this playful setting because it contains more complexities and is easier for the French clowns to explain and for the audience to relate to. We’re not all the sexiest womanizer in the land, but we all have dualities in our lives.
Jekyll and Hyde is built the same way Don Juan is. The narrative is similar, the company’s energy is similar, the games are similar. This time around, though, they’ve refined their techniques, clarified the rules. Take their heroes, for example. Don Juan was built like a sexy snowman, with a silk scarf and a baseball cap; Dr Jekyll’s more Ken doll, with a rigid blonde wig. Don Juan had to be played by two actors. One as the physical presence lip-syncing while the other actor played the voice through a microphone. While this game was fun, it grew tiring and repetitive, splitting the audience’s focus.
This time around, the company has nailed the essence of this game. You don’t need two actors, it can be done with one. They just have to be able to transform. Mr. Hyde needs to be larger than life, so whichever actor plays him not only get a tangled and spidery black wig, but also a microphone to alter their voice into a deep and terrifying sound. Think Pinhead from Hellraiser, or a weird cross between an evil Mufasa and Ghostface.
Like Don Juan, the design is once again simple and effective. Meg Rollandi’s costumes suit each character perfectly and allow their personality to come through; Andrew Paterson in sky high leopard print heels, ruby necklace and revealing white wrap shirt means he oozes the sexiness required for Julie. The spatial design and props by Debbie Fish are creative and interactive, and the moment the “fog” rolls out over the city is absolutely delightful.
The audience get to assist the cast at times and play with the props ourselves by helping to make Dr. Jekyll’s potion, this really adds to the fun atmosphere. Blair Godby’s sound design adds great comedy with expertly timed sound effects, and his manipulation of the performer’s voices is excellent. The use of modern pop music again really added to the party vibe, their harmonies are beautiful and Lily’s (Susie Berry) rendition of Nicki Minaj’s verse of “Monster” is exquisite.
Where Jekyll and Hyde truly triumphs is the structural collapse in the third act. In Don Juan this breakdown broke the world of the play and wasn’t particularly subtle. But Jekyll and Hyde is much too clever for that. The audience doesn’t need to be spoon fed by this point, we get it. So this time around the collapse is within the world these characters have created. Claudine is struggling on the phone with ACC, they keep classifying her as a construction worker (this also recently happened to me, so I related to it hard), Lily is arranging to go running with an audience member and Sebastien is dealing with some shocking personal news. Each character’s collapse links back to other moments in the show, and by this point they are all exploding outwards in a wonderful crescendo, until they are finally pulled back in by Julie who gets on with the show.
There’s a lot going on in this performance, with constant breaks in and out of the narrative, but what holds this production together is the fantastic ensemble that Peters has assembled. The energetic and bold cast give the impression that the performance is all improvised and rough, and while there are elements of that (audience interaction demands a certain level of flexibility), they surprise us with moments of total synchronicity and tight choreography. The sequence of Jekyll trying to resist the nightclub is particularly great, with smooth cuts back and forth between the cast displaying extreme eroticism and pious resistance. They seem to be prepared for any outcome. Always a risk with this amount of audience participation. But it is not the kind of participation to be feared.
Jekyll and Hyde displays some of the most gentle, loving and encouraging audience interaction that I have ever seen. These larger-than-life clowns ease us into the games they’re playing, making it feel like being involved is the most exciting thing in the world. They whisper dialogue in your ear and rapturously praise and compliment any audience member that does anything remotely impressive. You can’t help but want to play with them.
As adults in the modern world, we forget how to play. We don’t dream. We don’t imagine. We don’t play make believe the way we used to. We’re all far too busy for that. But Jekyll and Hyde gives its audience this opportunity. You get to come in and play. For 80 minutes you get to have a different experience of the world. And that experience is joyful, positive, sexy, hilarious and clever. I wish I could stay for hours.
Jekyll & Hyde
Created by A Slightly Isolated Dog
Jekyll & Hyde is a devised, interactive production by award-winning theatre company A Slightly Isolated Dog. In it, 5 very sexy French people reimagine Stevenson’s classic tale Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and invite us to “let a little of our evil out to play”.
Many of the conventions established in last year’s smash hit Don Juan were again utilised in Jekyll & Hyde, and this time with much improvement. A Slightly Isolated Dog have again managed the incredible feat of creating non-threatening interactive theatre. This time, their programme states: “If you just want to sit and watch, you can. Just tell us ‘no’ or shake your head when we come to you.” This disclaimer is well thought out, very considerate and furthers my admiration for the company.
Last year’s publicity stated that Don Juan “questions our repression and domestic anxieties: our desire to be bold and fearless…” Jekyll & Hyde on the other hand did not claim to be didactic. In fact, at the end of the show the cast openly struggled to find the morality of the story they had just told us. I found this incredibly refreshing: we were just there to be entertained, and this freedom caused us to relax into what rapidly became an immersive, uproarious experience.
Jonathan Price, Hayley Sproull, Andrew Paterson, Jack Buchanan and Susie Berry are astronomically talented performers. Blair Godby’s sound design was so brilliant I think he might be an actual wizard.
This was the most fun I have ever had at the theatre.
Jekyll and Hyde
Reviewed by: Katie Watling, St Oran’s College
Performed at Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 3nd April 2016
As soon as I walked into the theatre I knew the play was going to be like no other I had seen before. The first thing that I noticed was that the stage was very small, with only two rows of seating for the audience. This made me think it was going to be quite a new experience for me in the audience. I had never seen a stage like this and I believed it was going to be a great show.
There were shiny black cloths draped over the back rows of the raised seats, making sure everyone was close up and involved with the performance. The set was very basic, yet captivating, which made the performance full of life and allowed us as the audience to focus solely on the actors on the stage, rather than being distracted by the set.
Jekyll and Hyde followed the funny and mysterious story of two men, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The play itself was very comical and amusing, however at times it was also quite intrusive to your own thoughts. This allowed us as the audience to connect with the story on a more personal level.
I absolutely loved the way that Blaire, the sound designer utilised different sounds to make the performance have great impact on the audience. When sounds such as, the suspicious sound occurred in the show it made the audience intrigued by what will happen next.
The audience’s response was very positive. They all thought that it was so different to any other show they have seen before. The actors had everyone laughing in hysterics at some point in the play and actually most of the way through.
Audiences of all ages and stages will surely appreciate this new and creative performance, just as I have. This will defintaly be a memorable show and will keep you on your toes the whole time. But an ideal audience it is for, would probably be 16 years and older as they will be able to relate to the jokes and be intrigued by the mystery of it all, whilst still remembering all of the clues and information for the investigation of Mr Hyde.
As for the overall performance I thought it was very well performed and developed. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that the actors were so attentive and listened to all of the details that you gave them. If they asked your name or a detail about yourself at the beginning, they remembered it the whole course of the show; it was incredible!
When I realised that this play was going to be a mystery and a semi-structured piece I was interested to see how it would all come together. All of these characteristics of this show were completely different to any other I have experienced. For all of the actors to be able to hold the audiences information and different specific details for nearly two hours was incredible. I also enjoyed how they had very different/contrasting characters and this made the show more diverse and interesting to see how they all interacted. The way that the actors were able to show such different qualities in their characters, yet they were all loved a lot by the audience.
This was an incredible and an eye opening new experience for me, as I have never been in the audience and felt as though I was an actor as well. It was as if I was creating the play with the actors as we went along. By being heavily involved in the acting it made you feel as though it were real and you can understand the play more as a whole.
The sounds were utilised in a great way in order to have impact on the audience, and it definitely did that. I thoroughly enjoyed when a sound came on and all of the actors had a sharp head turn and looked right into someone’s eyes. This created impact on the audience and made them feel as though they were a part of the Mr Hyde mystery.
The most memorable part of the performance, for me, was when Mr Hyde ran out onto the street and then another actor comes back up to the door slowly. The sound design chosen for this specific part easily showed what had happened to Mr Hyde and the sound effects conveyed the emotions that the audience should feel.
Overall, “Jekyll and Hyde” is an amazing all round show, it will leave you rolling on the floor laughing and then make you feel other emotions too. It is a great performance with a lot of energy radiating off the actors, which then also rubs off on the audience. I did not expect to see such an interesting and well devised performance from only very few weeks of improvising. The small amount of set and seating made it a more personal performance and you could really connect with the actors as they felt like your very good friends. I believe that the response from the audience was great and heaps of people would recommend it to others. I would definitely recommend this as a ‘must see’ play for anyone who is looking for a show that they have never experienced before, a very well thought out, improvised yet structured performance. If you want a laugh, this is definitely the show to see. Everyone who sees this will get something out of it, and you will not go the whole show without laughing.