2 February 2016

Sumptuous Jekyll & Hyde at The Cockpit

Jekyll & Hyde was on my interest list for a while and I just needed to find a free night on a day that I was working in London, not a trivial matter. In the end it came down to a bad day at work which made going to the theatre the best of the various options I had for that evening.

I was attracted to Jekyll & Hyde by the story, which I knew from various film and TV adaptations rather than the book, and also the prospect of a version that included "sultry Jazz standards with a live pianist". The prospect of going to the Cockpit Theatre attracted too because of the friendly atmosphere there and the decent walk I have from the office to get there.

That walk took me through Marylebone Station where I helped myself to a wholemeal vegetarian pastie, as I had done previously. Unlike previously, I remembered that the road outside the station was two-way and I failed to get myself almost run over. Another difference was on arrival I found that the Cockpit had a choice of Czech lagers, I went for Budvar mostly because it was a bigger bottle.

The theatre was not that busy, but then it never has been in my experience, so I had a good choice of seats. Being first in helped. I went for the middle of the second row.

We were in a jazz club, the music was already playing and a waiter was tending to the tables. The set remained like that throughout the show despite the action moving to several places. A little bit of good acting from the cast and a little bit imagination from the audience was all that was needed for part of the stage to become somebody's house and for a door to appear.

Similarly a slight change of clothes enables the story to be told by just five people, plus the pianist. The waiter here was also a police inspector and the father of Jekyll's fiancee.

The story, the details of which I had forgotten, moved along briskly and I was quickly drawn into it. I cared for Jekyll's fiancee and also for the club singers that Hyde abused. After Hyde made his first appearance we saw little of Jekyll and so Hyde's menace filled the story and made it gripping. Oliver Hume was superb as Jekyll/Hyde.

Adding a pleasant lighter touch were the easy listening classics that the two women sang. These were familiar songs like Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and were sung in short pieces to help to set the mood without turning it into a musical as such. They worked very well despite of, or because of, the contrast to the dark happenings.

Jekyll & Hyde was a real joy and a prime example of what a few people can do with some good ideas and a lot of talent.

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