The McOnie Company stuns the audience with a brilliant take on Jekyll and Hyde, as dance returns to the Old Vic stage.
Having a 'dance thriller' on the bill certainly signals a change of direction for The Old Vic under the direction of newish Artistic Director Matthew Warchus. Warchus has taken a relative gamble with Jekyll and Hyde – the first full work from the McOnie Company. Although its founder Drew McOnie has received much praise for his earlier work, this is his debut as a storyteller. And the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Hyde is no easy story to choreograph, with its predominance of male characters and Victorian manners.
McOnie has created an exciting and beautiful spectacle – by straying far from the original. Much praise must of course be given to the dancers, in particular Daniel Collins as Jekyll. His slight form and geeky appearance hides a body capable of extremely fluid movement. Coupled with his love interest Dahlia, played by Rachel Muldoon in the form of a 1950s pin-up, they are mesmerising to watch together on stage.
McOnie's take on the classic won't please purists. For one thing, Jekyll and Hyde are portrayed by different dancers. At first I thought that this might be a cop out, as if the challenge of one dancer inhabiting both characters was too great. And Robert Louis Stevenson envisaged that Hyde is smaller and uglier than Jekyll, whereas Tim Hodges as Hyde has a fine physical presence (cheekily on show in a shower scene).
Yet having two dancers portray the two characters gives McOnie greater scope for creativity and the transformation scenes allow one to believe that they are ultimately the same person. It's supposedly set in the 1950s but switches from having the feel of a 1920s silent movie in the scenes with Jekyll and Dahlia, to a 1980s Fame-like movie with Hyde's sensual dancing with Ebony Molina as Ivy. This is largely thanks to Grant Olding's brilliant score which perfectly fits with the choreography (to brutal effect during the scenes of violence).
Jekyll and Hyde only has a short run until this Saturday so you'll have to be quick if you want to see it. This is a shame as I can imagine many more audiences giving it a standing ovation. Given the buzz at the Old Vic (with the queue for tickets snaking around the corner down Waterloo Road), and the cameras spotted filming the performance, hopefully there will be further opportunities to enjoy this spectacle.