Sell a Door’s production of Jekyll and Hyde opened at the Greenwich Theatre on the 11th Feb before embarking on a nationwide tour which includes many dates in the South East including Croydon, Tunbridge Wells and Crawley (more details here). I caught up briefly with Rowena Lennon who plays Dr Lanyon as well as other roles to ask her about the production.
The writer Jo Clifford has set it in 2022, 7 years into our future which is unusual as far as adaptations are concerned. I personally have not seen a modern version of the story. Not only has she set it in the near future but she has also used issues and problems that are around today and taken them into a more dystopian view to demonstrate what could conceivably happen. She has also added lots more female roles. In the original book there is only one minor female character but Jo wanted to bring a feminist view into the play. I play six different women and my primary job is to bring out the story of the women within the piece. So it is quite different to other adaptations, it really is quite exciting.
What is it like playing 6 different women?
I try to be the voice of lots of different types of women in the society where the play is set. My largest characters are Dr Lanyon and a housemaid in Jekyll’s household, but I also play other women that only appear once or twice, they either drive the narrative forward or they highlight Jekyll and Hyde’s actions. It is really busy for me, but a lot of fun.
Have you got a favourite?
For me it depends on the day. Sometimes I find myself drawn particularly to one more than the others but then it does fluctuate depending on the day. They are all so beautifully written by Jo (Clifford) the writer, so I am really very lucky to have all these fascinating characters to tell the story through.
Tell me more about your main character Dr Lanyon.
In the book Dr Lanyon was a man. In this version my character Lanyon and Dr Jekyll are both cancer specialists but we work from very different angles in terms of our methodology. The characters also have a history together so my scenes with Jeykll are often discussing differences in our scientific beliefs as well as in our relationship.
Am I right in saying that there are only three of you in the cast?
Yes that’s right, Nathan Ives-Moiba plays Jekyll and Hyde and Lyle Barke plays Utterson. I play everyone else.
Robert Louis Stevenson uses Utterson to narrate the story, with only three people in the story how does the storytelling work?
Utterson is still a major part of the story and has a lot of duologues. My characters all have a lot of monologues narrating quite a bit of all the events that happen. Also Jekyll and Hyde both speak directly to the audience, really involving them. This helps to drive the narrative on.
Can you give any spoilers about how the transformation between Jekyll and Hyde will take place?
Ooo I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you! It is inspired by Steampunk design so quite futuristic rather than the traditional ‘hairy beast’ transformation that you see in the older films. It is modern therefore quite different and definitely worth coming to see it for that alone!
With Jekyll and Hyde on the GCSE curriculum, do you have many school children come and watch the show.
There is a lower age limit of 14 year old because of the theme that the play deals with. Having said that, we have had many school groups of that age and older come and see Jekyll and Hyde. The response from them was great and afterwards we have had a few question and answers sessions with them. These were great as the children got really involved. They asked really good questions. Some of them were very deep and really make you re-evaluate what you are doing in the play. Most of the questions that I get asked usually revolve around the amount of characters I play.
It all sounds very exciting and I am looking forward very much to seeing the play when it is at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley on the 21st March. There are many other dates around the South East region so if you fancy a dystopian view of Jekyll and Hyde then check out the full tour dates here.