Jekyll & Hyde (Old Vic Theatre)

Jekyll & Hyde (Old Vic Theatre)

I wrote this for The Stage’s Critic Search: a review of Drew McOnie’s dance production Jekyll & Hyde at the Old Vic Theatre.

Everybody knows the plot of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll is Hyde. In adapting Stevenson’s fable for a wordless dance production, choreographer/director Drew McOnie has found a way to breathe new life into the old story.

The drama is vividly drawn using Matthew Bourne’s technique of double casting to explore aspects of character. Daniel Collins dances Jekyll with goofy lightness dissolving into tremulous fear, while Tim Hodges’s Hyde oozes menace.

The florally festooned pas de deuxes between Collins’s Jekyll and Rachel Muldoon’s sparkling Dahlia give way to gore and terror as Hyde starts to overcome Jekyll and the bodies pile up. It’s not for the squeamish. Swan Lake it is not, unless someone was strangling all the swans.

Grant Olding’s eclectic score emphasises the splits in personality, with scintillating jazz for Jekyll and heavy electric guitar music for Hyde. Soutra Gilmour’s set design evokes a creaky 1950s Waterloo where evil deeds dissolve into the smog.

Jekyll & Hyde is the McOnie Company’s first collaboration with the Old Vic under the new Artistic Direction of Matthew Warchus. It’s an ambitious and commanding entrée that has drawn new audiences to dance theatre in its too-short run. McOnie says “I want people to walk away feeling terrified, thrilled and a little bit horny.”

The show’s powerful physical effect on the audience – gasps, intakes of breath, a standing ovation – suggests he’s succeeded in at least some of these aims. It should transfer immediately to terrify, thrill and arouse a wider, perhaps unsuspecting, audience.

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29 Plays Later – The Lot

29 Plays Later – The Lot

This is the complete linked list of twenty-nine plays what I wrote during February 2016 for the Space theatre’s 29 Plays Later Challenge. Some of these are in the process of being brought to performance standard.

Day 1 – Sweet Chariotblog / pdf text – fertility melodrama
Day 2 – My New Sampo Tattoo – blog / pdf text – tragi-sitcom
Day 3 – Google’s Choice – blog / pdf text – monologue
Day 4 – Piccioni Rosa – blog / pdf text – math rock mockumentary
Day 5 – Worst. Movie. Ever – blog / pdf text – best movie ever
Day 6 – Percy and Rose – blog / pdf text / playlist of songs – WW1 musical
Day 7 – ATLAS ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ED – blog / pdf text – Ayn Rand’s emoji musical
Day 8 – The Truth About Margarine – blog / pdf text – black comedy farce
Day 9 – Parakeets – blog / pdf text – monologue
Day 10 – Spiral Jetty – blog / pdf text / scene performance video – historical drama about medical science
Day 11 – Dirrty Pantalons – blog / pdf text – nasty satire
Day 12 – The Dream Song – blog / pdf text – expressionist dream play
Day 13 – The Melody for Destiny – blog / pdf text – moral fable for kids
Day 14 – The Massacre on Valentine’s Day – blog / pdf text – high school drama
Day 15 – The Persecution and Inspiration of George Frideric Handel as Performed by the Entourage of Jimi Hendrix under the Direction of Psychedelic Drugs (Handel/Hendrix) – blog / pdf text – surreal historical comedy
Day 16 – Immortal Beloved – blog / pdf text – historical drama about Beethoven
Day 17 – Dramatis Personae – blog / pdf text – a play shorter than a millisecond
Day 18 – The Second ‘i’ in Liaison – blog / pdf text – comedy farce
Day 19 – The Obedience of Kolya S – blog / pdf text – historical drama
Day 20 – 1996: The Year In Revue  – blog / pdf text – satirical sketches, songs, stand-up & skits
Day 21 – Nuestro Pueblo – blog / pdf text – historical piece (art & civil rights)
Day 22 – Meursault – blog / pdf text – existential new wave caper comedy
Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom) – blog / pdf text – what-if history
Day 24 – The Antic Notion – blog / pdf text – supernatural memory play
Day 25 – Google’s Choice: A Reconstruction of the Black Box Recording – blog / pdf text
Day 26 – Hundreds of Sparrows – blog / pdf text – black comedy with a talking dog (second version from 15 March following casting readings)
Day 27 – Nazi Pirates of the Caribbean… With Zombies (and a Chainsaw) – blog / pdf text – surrealist anti-play
Day 28 – The Complete and Utter History of the Universe – blog / pdf text – science & wonders
Day 29 – A Talking Bonobo Chimp Called ‘Smiles’  – blog / pdf text – black comedy with a talking bonobo (second version from 1 April for performance at The Space. It bombed)

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 28 & Day 29

29 Plays Later – Day 28 & Day 29

The 29 Plays Later Challenge is over, finally over. 190 people began and 116 completed a new play each day in February (that’s 61%). We’ve exasperated our loved ones, toiled on our birthdays, and embarrassed ourselves on the radio. I’ve personally written a total of 86,364 words, plus 6109 on this blog (including this).

Day 28 – The Complete and Utter History of the Universe – Day 17’s challenge was to “write a play that is shorter than a millisecond or longer than a millennia.” I researched a play for the long challenge but then chucked it out and did the former: Dramatis Personae, in which the story takes place through an exhaustive list of character descriptions.  For Day 28 we had to revisit one of the previous challenges, so it made sense to complete the super long play, which is longer than the universe, longer even than a really super long meeting. Cosmic! It’s shit though.

28_-_THE_COMPLETE_AND_UTTER_HISTORY_OF_THE_UNIVERSE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 24pp, 2 actors)

Day 29 – A Talking Bonobo Chimp Called ‘Smiles’ – After teasing us with the possibility of an agglomerate challenge of all the previous challenges, the challenge was simple. Clothes. But it was hard to start. Two people didn’t submit their last play (aaargh!), and I thought I’d be one of them. (Five people didn’t submit their first play, what?). Thank goodness for Gordon’s gin. Following my play about a talking dog, I seem to be obsessed with sentient animals. Here is the heroic, instructive and tragic life of a bonobo.

29_-_A_TALKING_BONOBO_CHIMP_CALLED_SMILES_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 11pp, 4 actors – version 1 April for performance at The Space)

Following the hashtag #29playslater, everyone seems tired but broadly happy, with a pervading sense of ‘what now?’ for which I have no answer. If you’ve enjoyed any of the plays, then that’s my job done. Exit stage left.

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 25. Day 26. Day 27.

29 Plays Later – Day 25. Day 26. Day 27.

As we near the end of the 29 Plays Later challenge to write a complete new play every single day in February 2016, I find myself exhausted, with a constant headache the size of Canterbury. One could turn in monologues, or the “two-page dialogues that aren’t exciting” our quizmaster Sebastian Rex has criticized – but what would be the point? What is the point anyway?  Seriously? But this is no time to get philosophical, we’ve got plays to write!

Day 3 – Google’s Choice – It seems so long ago! This monologue was shortlisted for the Space Theatre’s monodrama festival, One. I intend to redraft it and record it.

03_-_GOOGLES_CHOICE_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 4pp, 1 actor)

Day 25 – Google’s Choice: A Reconstruction of the Black Box Recording – The challenge was to rewrite one of your own plays from memory. Portraying doing this for “Google’s Choice” as different iterations of a data extraction exercise from a damaged black box recording added new layers of meaning and mischief.

25_-_GOOGLES_CHOICE_RECONSTRUCTION_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 4pp)

Day 26 – Hundreds of Sparrows – Written as a response to the ‘abstract theme’ of veganism. Bell is a mature depressed vegan woman who tries to strangle her dog, Toby. The dog remonstrates. Yes, it’s a talking dog, half Labrador retriever, half cockney Russell Crowe on a bender. “Dogs talk constantly. You people just never listen.” There is dognapping, warring vegans, and very dark humour. Finally Bell has to try to decide whose life is more important – hers or the dog’s…

Hundreds-of-sparrows-15-March-2016-AJ-Dehany (pdf, 20pp, 3 actors)

Day 27 – Nazi Pirates of the Caribbean… with Zombies (and a Chainsaw) – I will actually write the movie for this title, but this is not it. Instead I told the tale of L’Homme à tête de chou, who dreams of walking between the two towers. He falls in love with the shampoo girl, murders her, gets incarcerated in an asylum, and escapes to pursue his dream. This is interspersed with scenes documenting the nefarious activities of property developers, terrorists, and politicians. An exercise in sustained disrupture and continuous discontinuity.

27_-_NAZI_PIRATES_OF_THE_CARIBBEAN_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 10pp, 4 actors)

A very honorable mensh to the mighty Sarah Mann who has basically won at 29 Plays Later with her peerless 29 Play Slater, in which twenty-nine famous actors all play Kat Slater out of Eastenders. “Not all models look like Brad Pitt. But none of them look like Homer Simpson.”

Two more to go!!

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 24 – The Antic Notion

29 Plays Later – Day 24 – The Antic Notion

For Day 24 of 29 Plays Later we were challenged to write around themes of memory.

Tennessee Williams invented the term “memory play” to describe The Glass Menagerie and it has since been used to describe plays like Pinter’s Old Times and Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. In such plays “the scene is memory and is therefore non-realistic” though the primary mode is realistic. I’d call Conor McPherson’s The Weir a memory play. It’s a ghost story. It’s several ghost stories, but it never leaves the pub. Spooky!

Day 24 – The Antic Notion – A densely nineteenth-century gothic ghost story with several narrative layers and a circular structure. The rich language is drawn from Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, and the effect is reminiscent of Joyce in eyeliner or Ligotti‘s weird fiction.

24_-_THE_ANTIC_NOTION_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 7pp, 2 actors)

aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom)

29 Plays Later – Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom)

The challenge for Day 23 of 29 Plays Later was to write a play in a different language (with a as bonus challenge to put in a surprise ending).

Now, I’ve seen how rabid fans of Game of Thrones get about spoilers, and someone recently let slip to me the bombshell about the new Star Wars film – THANKS, RICH (I can’t believe Jar Jar Binks is dead). So I’ll give you the link and then we’ll have an image of some soldiers and below that the spoiler text to read afterwards or instead.

Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom) –  Complete text in German followed by English translation. For English language performance, possibly start in nonsense German and ‘fade’ into English.

23_-_EIN_VEREINIGTES_KOENIGREICH_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 21pp, min 3 actors)

cropped-resigs021

***SPOILERS***

You got it! It’s a counterfactual history in which Germany won the First World War. The title refers to the German Empire rather than Great Britain. By all means ‘comment’ below and let me know at what point you figured it out. There’s kind of a punchline ending I’m not convinced would work on stage so I might need to add a fifth scene. My original idea for an ending was to have some big event that was the same in both timelines – both our timeline where the Allies won WW1 and the fictional timeline where the Central Powers won. There was still a Second World War but it was probably started by the depleted France and didn’t last very long. Possibly the fifth scene could be on 9/11. In fact, I might do that. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Damn. Or, as we say in England: Ach, scheisse!

Day 23 – Ein Vereinigtes Königreich (A United Kingdom) – Complete text in German followed by English translation. For English language performance, possibly start in nonsense German and ‘fade’ into English.

23_-_EIN_VEREINIGTES_KOENIGREICH_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 21pp, min 3 actors)

Tschüss, aj.

29 Plays Later – Day 22 – Meursault

29 Plays Later – Day 22 – Meursault

Our challenge for Day 22 of 29 Plays Later was to take a famous first line from literature and then go off somewhere else with it.

The opening of Albert Camus’s L’étranger goes like this: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” The novel is normally translated as The Stranger these days, but the copy I first read was still The Outsider. I took The Outsider and mixed it up with the plot and characters of The Outsiders, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 new wave film Bande à part (usually translated as Band of Outsiders).

I dragged these two masterpieces into some kind of absurdist existential new wave caper movie for radio. There’s more plot than the whole movie, and I was filling in dialogue for the fifteen chapters until 2am, so it’s as rushed and hammy and confused as ever, but you get the gist, or as say in French, le gist.

22_-_MEURSAULT_-_AJ_DEHANY (pdf, 42pp, 4 actors)

Check out the other challengers at #29playslater and check my main Mann Sarah Mann. À bientôt!

aj.