‘Jekyll & Hyde’ is the first piece of dance commissioned by the Old Vic as part of their new dance collaboration with Drew McOnie as an Associate Artist, and it is a spectacle and a half. In a ‘Little Shop of Horrors-esque’ take on the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde, McOnie creates dance magic with a show that oozes sex and brutality.
Daniel Collins is stunning as Dr Jekyll, here portrayed as an awkward florist who stumbles across his transformative formula in an attempt to create the perfect plant food. As the flowers in the shop blossom, so does the budding romance between Jekyll and Dahlia, danced exquisitely by Rachel Muldoon. However, as Hyde begins to take over Jekyll’s body with increasingly violent transitions, the body count creeps ever higher and Jekyll is slowly lost to his alter ego. It is here that McOnie’s production really begins to fly, the scenes of the show becoming darker and the dance increasing in its intensity as the two men struggle for domination over the body.
Machismo comes off the stage in waves when Hyde appears for the first time, Tim Hodges achieving the perfect combination of arrogance and utter desirability. His previous work in Matthew Bourne’s ‘The Car Man’ is evident here, channelling the brooding nature of that show into McOnie’s choreography, and indeed Bourne’s influence is clear throughout the entire work. As an ex-dancer of New Adventures, and with Bourne as his mentor, McOnie’s style of evocative story telling is so reminiscent of Bourne’s works, namely ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘The Car Man’. However, McOnie is no simple copycat, and his work has its own unique flavour to it. The partnership between Jekyll and Hyde is entirely believable, the pure testosterone that emerges from Hyde’s seductive movements a strong contrast to Jekyll’s adorably nervous attempts to woo his beloved. Rather than mask the transformation scenes McOnie brings them centre stage, utilising strobes and Grant Olding’s pounding score to reinforce the physical violence that Jekyll experiences when Hyde arrives. The two men are illuminated in their battle for dominance, Hyde’s disregard for Jekyll’s life brutally realised as he wreaks havoc amongst Jekyll’s customers.
The two leading men are strongly supported by the McOnie company, each performer truly inhabiting the character and committing to the choreography, be it an intensely physical gym number, a highly charged club scene or a dream sequence where Jekyll is transported through the vapours of his formula. McOnie uses unison sparingly but to great effect. There is a welcome lightness amongst the more intense numbers, seen in an amusing plant competition routine as the dancers demonstrate their own ‘green fingers’ in an attempt to curry Jekyll’s favour. McOnie successfully avoids awkward ‘dance fighting’, instead gifting Tim Hodges with truly brutal choreography when carrying out Hyde’s violent murders. The death of Daisy, Jekyll’s sweet florist assistant, danced with real joy by Alexzandra Sarmiento, is particularly hard to watch. The movement is barely choreographed, McOnie instead allowing the violence of Hyde’s nature to come across as he lifts Daisy off her feet, strangling with minimal cold blooded effort. Hyde is a destructive machine, and there is little to be done to stop him.
Soutra Gilmour’s set for the show is very clever, a revolving piece operated by the dancers that smoothly transitions from bedroom to florists to nightclub. The performers seamlessly move through the set, using its elevated sections to add real depth to the choreography, and it creates the illusion of a far grander building.
Ultimately, the McOnie Company’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ is a whopper of a dance piece. Drew McOnie has moved beyond rising star status; he is an established talent in the world of dance and theatre, and at The Ginger Wig we cannot wait to see where his next choreographic challenge takes him.
Highlight of the show – Jekyll’s preparation for his night out with Dahlia, a fantastically choreographed awkward telephone conversation as Daniel Collins becomes increasingly flustered and tangled in the phone cord, before impressively managing to change an entire outfit on stage whilst hilariously hip thrusting to 60’s motown rock. This scene alone would have demonstrated the massive talent this dancer possesses.
La Gíngy Strollér