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EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: JEKYLL VS HYDE, PBH'S Free Fringe @ Voodoo Rooms

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: JEKYLL VS HYDE, PBH'S Free Fringe @ Voodoo Rooms

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: JEKYLL VS HYDE, PBH'S Free Fringe @ Voodoo RoomsEdinburgh in August can easily be seen as representative of the duality within native son Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - a respectable, cultured city of imposing gothic structures invaded by raucous, often destructive, debauchery.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, therefore, that the Fringe is playing host to no fewer than three different adaptations of the Victorian literary masterpiece.

In Jekyll vs Hyde, a free musical comedy now playing at the Voodoo Rooms, Laurence is a serious composer, working on a one-man musical adaptation of Stevenson's classic work. It's high art, he believes, much elevated by the noble tradition of sock puppetry enabling him to play all of the parts. His wife and disgruntled stage hand, Lindsay, thinks it's all a bit boring, especially compared to the cheesy, bells-and-whistles, Broadway-bound adaptation they had crafted together once upon a time.

Both are adamant that their preferred adaptation is superior. Evidently, the best way to resolve their argument is to create a definitive adaptation drawing on both - melding introspective soliloquies and patter songs with tap dances and electric guitar solos.

From the duo that brought The Time Machine, a little gem of a musical, to the Fringe in 2017, Jekyll vs Hyde is another offering filled with toe-tapping tunes, witty wordplay and rollicking repartee, this time in a more overtly comic fashion. Stevenson's classic novel is more of a jumping-off point for the wider theme of opposites clashing and then coming together.

Indeed, Jekyll vs Hyde gives the impression of the potential for a longer piece, but is careful to never outstay the dual-musical concept's welcome. Instead, it whips through the story as a backdrop to the relationship between two apparent opposites.

Owen's stage persona is serious, staid and intellectual, making the moments where he suddenly fully commits to letting loose all the more amusing. Sharman is an anarchic comic foil - more hammy than Hammer Horror as she revels in the role of Hyde - raucously undermining Owen's precious arty ways. Under Matthew Crosby's direction, both give unpretentious performances: believable and seamless, happy to let their contrary characterisation find laughs.

The show offers tons of comedy with a high standard of polish. Musical numbers are often rooted in a great concept that would entertain on its own, but Sharman and Owen always add an extra cherry on the top, whether with a visual gag or fantastic line that keeps the audience laughing all the way. Certainly, it's not every production that can reference the Chuckle Brothers and nipple clamps in the same song. The songs themselves are a good mixture of styles, with Grease pastiche "Whoa Whoa Whoa, What Next?" and fun duet "Better Together" the particular standouts.

Overall, Jekyll vs Hyde is a thoroughly entertaining piece from a talented team. Notably, it is a free show, giving away a CD or downloadable copy of the show with a £10 donation, making it a bargain hour of entertainment for fans of new musicals or reworked literary classics. With a great mix of comedy throughout, a strong concept and high-quality songs, Jekyll vs Hyde is definitely worth seeking out.

Jekyll vs Hyde is at PBH's Free Fringe @ Voodoo Rooms until 25 August.

Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne

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