by Victoria Obafemi
‘Everyone has another face they hide behind’
A patriarchal society- something clearly drummed into young girls’ psyche from birth. Phrases such as “it’s a man’s world”, “women can’t” or “shouldn’t do that”, are all common phrases we’ve become accustomed to growing up. If you think gender inequality is a thing of the past, recent headlines such as the Harvey Weinstein case and the BBC gender pay scandal should convince you that despite years of fighting for equal rights, in modern day 2017- men still run the world.
So what does all this have to do with Stevenson’s gothic tale? Well a hell of a lot, apparently. In the National Youth Theatres (NYT) adaptation of ‘Jekyll and Hyde‘, the Victorian era collides with 21st century Britain through a thought provoking tale of revenge, loss and intrigue. This play pulls no punches. From it’s hard hitting political undertones (everything from abortion rights to racism and sexual discrimination is covered here), to challenging the patriachial society we live in, this is a no holds barred insight into why society is broken and one woman’s attempts at fixing it.
Written by Evan Placey (Consensual, Girls Like That), and directed by Roy Alexander Weise (Mountaintop, JMK 2016 winner), the play pushes the boat, by basing the narrative on Harriet Jekyll/Flossie Hyde, played by Elizabeth McCafferty (who gave an astounding performance). The cleverly scripted production by the NYT, takes us on a journey of a grieving widow and her ambition to break free from the norm during the mourning of her husband, Dr Jekyll by continuing his controversial research into the duality of man.
The original story written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886, “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde,” like many other stories of its time, focused solely on men- in particular white men. Women were overlooked and forgotten from the narrative. “Revisiting the book, I was struck by the invisibility of women,” says Placey. Considering how challenging the Victorian era was for women, it’s not hard to imagine why.
“We are often only told about the stay at home wives, the corsets and big skirts, the sexual repression and domineering religious etiquette. Many women were educated, but rarely able to exercise their creativity,” agrees Weise. Although radically different from its original story, the underlying soul of deceit, secrets and revenge can be felt, but from a woman’s perspective.
As a black man, Weise admits that he was intimidated when approached to direct the play- worrying that he wouldn’t be able to do justice to the story from a woman’s point of view. He needn’t have worried. From the unexpected twists, to the suspense and the dramatic cliff hanger moments, the message rang out loud and clear.
The National Youth Theatre is a British Charity committed to the development of young people through creative arts. The talented young actors and actresses played their characters with conviction, making the roles their own. This play will leave you thinking and challenging our ideas about society and how we view women.
Jekyll and Hyde is showing at the Ambassador’s theatre, Leicester Square, until 6th December, 2017.
Box office: www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk