Read about Dr. Baldys’ Victorian and Edwardian Literature class and their trip to see “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” starring Jeremy Kendall at the Ware Center on October 26th.
The story of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is about Mr. Utterson and his friend Dr. Jekyll living in Victorian England. Various crimes and murders occur in London, all connected by a strange man named Edward Hyde. Utterson eventually finds out that Hyde is associated with Jekyll, as Jekyll states in his will that his establishment in the case of his disappearance or death should go to Hyde. When Utterson sees Jekyll, he notices that he has been getting frail and sickly, due to his addiction to a particular drug. This drug is connected to Hyde, as Jekyll takes the drug to transform into Hyde. More and more, Jekyll grows addicted to the drug, and his transformation into Hyde becomes increasingly difficult. Eventually, Hyde is accused of these various crimes, and by the end of the novella he disappears. This novella demonstrates late Victorian anxieties about science and class in the post-Darwinian era; it also reflects emerging theories about the structure of the human psyche while addressing the age-old question of how to balance the “duality” of good and evil within ourselves.
Our class read the novella a few days before the performance by Jeremy Kendall. We have also been discussing how science and religion was viewed in the Victorian period and how these concepts impacted cultural discourse and literature. Jeremy also visited with the class to discuss his choices in adapting the work and his work as an actor. Jeremy’s adaptation was interesting because it was a one-man show. He played sixteen different characters and had to vary his acting to demonstrate sixteen different voices and used pre-recorded audio tracks to represent offstage crowds. The original novella doesn’t portray any strong women characters, but he added a female character, Louisa, to his performance.
The simplistic set including the door frame on wheels really forced the audience to focus on the characters and their actions. Jeremy was able to accurately capture the essence of sixteen different people in the course of 75 minutes. Seeing the performance enhanced my understanding of the text and allowed me to visualize each character in a new way. This show sparked discussion of adaptive choices with the class.