ONE of our greatest horror stories has undergone a fresh lick of fear thanks to Hull Truck Theatre – and a director’s accidental inspiration.
Nick Lane considered his own physical dilemma on his way to taking Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of a man meddling with the mind to Sheffield’s Lantern Theatre next week.
“The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde is a small-scale tour but I’ve tried to put a twist on it,” says Nick.
“I was aware that people have certain preconceptions about the story and I thought it might be fun to come up with something a bit different.
“The original tale is just brilliant but what’s always helped me to get into a story is finding a personal angle. In terms of Jekyll & Hyde, what intrigued me was looking at the consequences if Jekyll was incredibly intelligent but physically weak, and Hyde was a really powerful man, albeit very cruel.
“Some years ago I was in a car accident which permanently damaged my neck and back. I wondered, if someone offered me a potion that was guaranteed to make me feel the way I did before the accident, but with the side effect that I’d become ruthless and horrible – would I drink it? Would I make that trade?
“If I knew I could do it for a day then I suppose I might, but what if the feeling of being strong and healthy became an addiction?
“It’s Pandora’s Box. A butterfly wouldn’t want to become a caterpillar again because once it has wings it wants to fly. That’s the difference, as soon as you make Hyde the strong one, I wonder if he’d want to go back to being weak old Jekyll again. So it’s a question of ‘Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?’”
It is the first time Hull Truck has performed at the Nether Edge theatre.
Nick says he has looked to find a new way to scare the audience with a small cast.
“I’ve tried to ramp up the physicality, the claustrophobia, the menace.
“Jekyll is a medical man, so I’ve gone down the route of looking at why Jekyll is exploring the ability to split the mind. In the book, Jekyll is just fascinated by his own nature; he wants to look at why good is good and evil is evil within him.
“I wondered, what if Jekyll was looking at splitting the mind to perhaps find a cure for schizophrenia or other mental disorder?
“You have to remain true to the source material and in particular the spirit, themes and drive that the author wants to explore. Beyond that, I guess you look for opportunities within the text to explore other things, and I find that question of research versus morality fascinating.”
The production, Thursday to Saturday, remains faithful to the era it was originally written in, surely suiting the Victorian setting of the Lantern.
“The themes are strong enough to transcend any particular period so I thought it natural to stay faithful to Stevenson’s vision.
“This play is set in the 1890s when a lot of interesting historical events were taking place. That era was also regarded by many as the birth of modern neuroscience so I’ve placed Jekyll among genuine experts in that field, as if he too were a pioneer – albeit a very twisted one with results that were more than he bargained for.”