Nationwide audiences are watching a Gothic horror filmed at Edinburgh's Leith Theatre - Liam Rudden

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has never been stranger than in Hope Dickson Leach's imaginative retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic for the National Theatre of Scotland's hybrid theatre/film production, recorded live at Leith Theatre and now screening in cinemas around the UK.

By Liam Rudden
Friday, 11th March 2022, 4:45 pm
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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With the action of the piece transported from London to an Edinburgh of the past, artistic licence has been taken and if the result is occasionally anachronistic storytelling, this Jekyll and Hyde, relayed very much from the point of view of the doctor’s good friend Gabriel Utterson, managed to remain an exciting experience to be part of, even if the spell was at times broken by the mix of disciplines, some gelled while others clashed.

Certainly at the live experience - the film currently screening in cinemas was edited from footage shot over three nights - audience members lucky enough to have tickets were very much immersed in the creative process that was unfolding all around them.

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Arriving for the third and final Live From Leith Theatre performance I’ll admit I was still unsure what to expect.

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From the moment I stepped into the grand foyer of the old town hall I found myself traipsing past the first of a number of film sets - the New Club in this instance, and a table set for dinner.

Ascending the stairway to the Circle via another set - a plush Victorian drawing room this time - and following the curving corridor to the circle itself gave me my first view of the main hall in all its somewhat faded grandeur - but then this is a theatre in the early stages of recovery and its decay is appropriately atmospheric for the Gothic tale set to unfold.

Seated, with headphones in place, waiting for the large screen filling the stage to come to life, all that was left to do was soak up the timeless ambience of the once bustling venue. It was great to see it living and breathing once again with an excited audience waiting for the off.

Below, in the stalls, as well as rows of seats, other film sets depicted Dr Jeykll's laboratory and a plush living room, just two of the many scattered all around the theatre that would ensure actors and camera crews alike had to hare around the venue to hit their next cue - the live scenes being inter-spliced with prerecorded segments.

With the action underway, scenes being enacted in the main hall created a ghostly pre-echo as performers delivering their lines could be heard a fraction of second before they played out over headphones.

As as audience, you were always very aware that you were on a live set witnessing 'the simultaneous creation and screening of this one-off experience', as the publicity blurb says. It will be interesting to go back and see how it fares as purely cinematic experience.

The edited movie version is screening around the UK this month, including a number of dates in Edinburgh all of which can be found here.

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