Jekyll and Hyde

Big Finish Classics: Jekyll and Hyde audio review

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Jekyll and Hyde is the long-awaited audio version of Nicholas Briggs’ take on the classic gothic novella. 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was first published in 1886. Despite running to a mere 141 pages, it is one of the most celebrated pieces of gothic fiction. From big screen adaptations to frequent television shows, the tale has been told time and again; the names Jekyll and Hyde have seeped into common parlance for someone with a volatile personality.

However, many adaptations stray far and wide from the original… Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde anyone? There’s doubtless a case to be make for Marvel’s Hulk too! That’s not the case here, although it does take a unique angle on proceedings.

This audio version first began life on stage, commissioned for the Theatre Royal Nottingham’s Classic Thriller season in 2016. It later enjoyed a national tour and we were lucky enough to catch it in Windsor. Since then, it’s been on the Big Finish waiting list, but regularly knocked to the back of the pile by high-profile signings and shows.

Big Finish Jekyll and Hyde cover artwork

It begins with a disturbing, changeable music suite. Like the overture from a sinister musical, we move from the sounds of a horse-drawn carriage, through the hurdy-gurdy of fairground music to far more sinister tones. It concludes with the sounds of bloody, visceral violence and a woman’s scream. All this before the theme kicks in; director Nicholas Briggs — who’s also the composer — certainly knows how to set out his stall!

A Police Procedural

Jekyll and Hyde is a story we all think we know. In fact, it’s a far darker and more challenging tale and told primarily through the first person viewpoint of Jekyll’s solicitor and friend Gabriel Utterson. Fortunately, this adaptation has the solution in the form of a police inspector; promoted from a minor role in the original, here he doggedly pursues the case bringing with him the familiar inquisitorial nature of a police procedural.

Throughout the opening stages, much of the story comes to light through his questioning. It’s a master class in anticipation as we learn about Utterson’s experiences and fears. Of course, we know what he is to yet discover, but the back and forth between Barnaby Kay’s Utterson and Robert Portal’s Newcomen is so engaging that it’s entirely possible to get caught up in the tale.

When we do finally meet Mr Hyde properly, he’s utterly disturbing; throaty and dripping with menace, he’s a world away from the fragile, desperate Dr Jekyll. John Heffernan is utterly absorbing in both aspects of the role.

For us, though, the star of the show here is Robert Portal as the dogged Inspector. He’s an incredible judge of character with undercurrents of menace beneath a believable professional façade. It made us wonder what his Mr Hyde might be like!

In the wider cast, the versatile Clare Corbett takes on all the story’s female parts; her housekeeper Mrs Poole is a particular delight. Barnaby Edwards is equally well-employed, as the witness Mr Richard Enfield and the ill-fated (but gloriously named) Sir Danvers Carew, amongst others.

Full-bloodied and uncompromising, this is a terrific rendition of a famous tale. It sweeps you up and keeps you enthralled (despite knowing the central premise) and will doubtless serve as a great introduction to those studying the text too.

The release also sports a suitably terrifying cover from Christopher Naylor (best known for his role as Big Finish’s version of Doctor Who’s Harry Sullivan.


Jekyll and Hyde is available on Limited Edition CD and download from Big Finish