Theatre review - Jekyll & Hyde, Burnley Mechanics Theatre
PUBLISHED: 10:47 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:47 15 November 2017
Rob Gemmell reviews the Burnley Light Operatics Society production.
A hush came over the audience as the lights were dimmed at the Mechanics Theatre in Burnley and we were transported back to London in 1888 to the time of a very famous doctor.
I am never failed to be impressed by a show put on by the inspiring Burnley Light Operatics Society and I am always surrounded by intrigue as to how I could be left in awe once again. No sooner had the lights dimmed when a crisp projected digital image of a hospital covered the back of the stage giving so much depth as the tale began to unfold and I knew, once again, I was about to be enthralled.
The story of Jekyll and Hyde is known all around the world and you will be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of it. Doctor Henry Jekyll is a scientist and, through his many concoctions created in his laboratory, may have found a potion that could eradicate the evil from people and leave only good. His fellow scholars label him as a mad man and a fool to think it would ever be possible. Potential financial backers disregard his preposterous suggestion and turn their backs on him which adds fuel to the fire and only pushes Jekyll further into his experiment. Despite the warning from close friends and future family, he perseveres with his experiments which only isolate him from the world that surrounds him, pushes him further inside himself and reveals more than he bargained for.
With a story of such scale and magnitude comes a large canvas to paint the art on. As locations changed, so did that of the digital image on the back-stage projecting streets of London, Jekyll’s lab and also the bars, taverns and surrounding streets that often get paid a visit. The transition from scene to scene were flawless and opened up a new world of stage production which allowed the show to play in a more cinematic way. All that was required now was cast of pure talent, an ensemble of support both on stage and in front of it, offering musical accompaniment and a truly unforgettable production. That was exactly what we got.
No sooner had Andrew Tuton graced us with his first vocal performance as Dr. Jekyll that the rest of the show was set up for us. The professionalism of his performance was not just in his ability to sing, but also to portray two very different personalities within his depiction which was simplistic, but wonderfully pulled off as we gradually get introduced to the other character in question, Mr. Hyde. With a wonderful leading role came an equally wonderful supporting cast headed up by Jenny Gill as Jekyll’s love interest, Emma Carew and Zoe Tompkins as Lucy Harris. Both leading ladies performed breath-taking performances with truly mesmerising singing voices that reverberated around us as we were pulled further in to the show. The ensemble were made up of some of the best supporting performances and choruses that I have witnessed on an amateur stage with credit going to Geoff Baron, Robin Knipe, Alan Whittaker, Peter Rigney, Steven Mercer, Martin Chadwick, Mick Dawson, Liz Wood, John Huyton, Tony Lewis, the ever-popular Joanne Gill and one of the stand outs, the dark, sinister, but also soulful portrayal of Spider by Danny Morville.
The captivating performances were all brought together once again by a formidable partnership of Anthony Williams, the Director and Choreographer and the Musical Director, Simon Murray. The choreography, not only of the dancing and singing, but the acting was stunning. Not a step was out of place, nor a note sung out of key. It was a blend of perfection capitalised by the support of the truly magnificent orchestra who brought the whole show to the forefront with bellowing rhythms, all under the watchful eye of Simon Murray. The orchestra performed with a blissful ease as the soundtrack of the show was presented to us, but also with magical moments from the slightest movement from percussion or a quiet haunting melody so subtle, but so rich and vibrant in the piece that it gave it a mesmerising, but tranquil feel.
Much like Anniversaries, Birthdays and Christmas, the Burnley Light Operatics Society’s shows have become a regular annual fixture on my calendar and I implore people to do the same. I mention this regularly in my reviews and having been fortunate enough to have met the Chairman of the society, Mr. David Gill, I regret not asking him if the use of the term “amateur production” was actually a misprint. I honestly believe these performances are anything but amateur.