Castle Hill Players “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is a ripper of a production to start their 2020 season. Based on the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, Noah Smith’s adaptation under the direction of Paul Sztelma is a highly creative and imaginative rendering of the story, enthralling from the opening scene to the final enigmatic moment.

London 1888, and Dr Henry Jekyll a upright citizen and highly respected scientist has been researching the notion of the “dual notion of Man” and begins experimenting with a secret formula which will unleash his hidden, evil nature. Edward Hyde is revealed and the body count begins. Dimitri Armatas is excellent in his dual role as Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde as he transforms amid emotional cries and dramatic bone cracking noises from the enquiring academic to the fiendish maniac by changes in body posture, tone of voice and delivery.

A special highlight of the production is the combination of Nicole Harwood and Robert Snars in their multiple roles as narrators, various characters – from servants to police – and as voices in the head of Jekyll. They are obviously relishing their parts and their makeup and costumes lend an eerie and gothic quality to the scenes.

Hamish Macdonald as Lanyon a doctor who questions Jekyll’s ideas, and Jonathan Burt as Utterson who represents the perfect Victorian gentleman, are strong in their supporting roles as upright citizens and long-time friends of Jekyll.  Adam Garden plays the slightly sleezy younger lawyer Enfield, cousin to Utterson and husband-to-be of Helen.

Helen, played by Vanessa Purnama, is an American with an intelligent and enquiring mind yet fooled by her dallying fiancée Enfield. Faith Jessel plays the tough and fearless Cybel, a madam afraid of no-one and strong enough to stand up to Mr Hyde.

The dark wall that forms the back of the set with windows high up allowing in thin streams of light has two doors that feature throughout the play.  The set is simply and cleverly changed by the actors from scene to scene and in combination with the lighting, sound including some very loud clanging, and additional effects of haze and dust has the audience engrossed as we move from gentleman’s home to a laboratory to the sinister back streets of London at a rattling great pace.

This is a stellar production in all aspects and highly recommended. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde plays at the Theatre Castle Hill Showground until 22nd February 2020.