- John Lombard
Jekyll & Hyde - A Slightly Isolated Dog
Theatre troupe A Slightly Isolated Dog brought blissful chaos to Queanbeyan’s Bicentennial Hall with an anarchic and invigorating modern twist on gothic horror classic Jekyll & Hyde.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella explores duality, with saintly Dr. Henry Jekyll transforming through a potion into diabolical Edward Hyde. Director Leo Gene Peters follows the gist of Stevenson’s plot, more interested in creating a relevant and participatory experience for the audience than slavish adherence to the Victorian text.
Instead, the story of Jekyll & Hyde is the starting point for an exploration of how our contemporary ethical aspirations are unstuck by the petty frustrations of modern life. Jekyll is the woke vegetarian who recycles, while Hyde is the gun-loving uncle who lavishes praise on Trump.
Performers and co-devisers Leo Gene Peters, Meg Rollandi, Debbie Fish, Blair Gody and Sam Clavis used friendly chatter and extravagant praise to relax the audience, creating trust that invited engagement and play. In the A Slightly Isolated Dog style, no artificial barrier separated the audience and the performers, with lights up on both the seated ticket holders and the preposterous faux French clowns.
These performers delighted not only with adroit physical antics, but through the openness with which they expressed their madcap impulses, and with their passionate respect for the experience of the audience. Rather than a story unfurled to viewers, this was a shared exploration built on profound connection. The actors coax us into cathartic identification with Hyde's rebellion against the stultifying obligations of civilised life. Rather than recoiling from Hyde’s grim atrocities, we accept our own darkness and enjoy the vicarious rampage.
Simple props and zany sound effects were a perfect match for the irreverent story, with vibrant audience participation adding zest to the mayhem.
This revolutionary performance demonstrated the power of a democratic theatre of kindness, where the audience is wooed into the show, rather than summoned to bear witness for their own edification. Dramatic adaptations of this story explore the stark duality of good and evil. Here, this duality is exposed as a trick of perception, with both Jekyll and Hyde honoured as facets of human experience, just as the production reconciles the estranged twins of theatre, actor and spectator.