Ffynone House students have been whisked back to Victorian London by a visiting production of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Educational theatre group ‘GINIFICENT’ brought their three-man stage version of the show to the school hall for Years 9, 10 and 11. This is a set text for GCSE English Literature and any opportunity to see the words brought to life is of real value to our students.
An enlightening Q & A session
The play itself was, like the novel, was both entertaining and disturbing. Of equal value was the question and answer session that followed the piece. The students asked a wide range of questions. These not only concerned the actors’ interpretation of the text but also dealt more generally with acting, set-design and the adaption process. The actors shared a wealth of information about the historical context of the piece and fully justified their opinions about the characters and issues in the novel. It was so refreshing for our students to hear different voices offering alternative interpretations of a complex text.
A balance of light and dark
The production stuck close to the text and made the complex narrative easy to follow. Stevenson’s language was preserved; there must have been significant challenge for the actors in learning the lines! Hyde was extremely unnerving and gave a few members of the audience a scare! The company captured the ‘gentlemanly’ behaviour of the 1800’s perfectly as well as their preoccupation with class and reputation. Multi-roling helped to emphasise the theme of duality in the novel and gave the actors some opportunities for comedy in playing the servants.
A symbolic set
As this was a touring production, the set was simple but effective. The flats were decorated to suggest a private gentleman’s lounge with wood-panelling and shelves of books. There were two doors; one a little dilapidated to represent the dark side, Hyde, and one in pristine condition to symbolise the respectable character of Jekyll. There was just one armchair that was used in many different ways, not least to preserve the mystery of the transformation scene. Very few technical effects were used and so they had to work hard with the language to create a sense of mystery and fear. A television screen disguised as a mirror above the fireplace allowed the exterior scenes to be communicated via film and animation. This set all came to pieces and slotted into the back of a compact Transit van, but not before our students had a quick play at being involved in the show!
A positive response
The students were buzzing after the show and they certainly felt it had enhanced their understanding of the text significantly. Our thanks to GINIFICENT for a superb production and a fascinating Q and A session.