Hiding Jekyll – King Street Theatre

Parodies aren’t solely the remit of the big screen. They may have hit their recent popularity peak in the 2010s with big-screen spoofs aimed squarely at cinematic hits like Twilight and The Hunger Games, but they pop up on stage from time to time as well: hence Hiding Jekyll.

A theatrical spoof of the Jekyll & Hyde story, Hiding Jekyll endeavours to join the ranks of Scary Movie and its ilk, but the genre’s dying appeal and audiences’ increasingly dismissive attitude of it couldn’t be more clear in Hiding Jekyll’s innate desperation and this production at the King Street Theatre.

Hiding Jekyll.

Hiding Jekyll presents the evil Hyde as the protagonist, situating his alter-ego Jekyll as a do-gooder who is too good for a world that is susceptible to human error and corruption. Not only does the play fail to establish a specific context for its setting (why the subversion?), but Liviu Monsted’s reliance on cheap jokes that are continuously recycled (such as using the cliched line of “don’t kill the messenger”) renders his spoof ineffective and groundless.

Monsted’s cringe-worthy and unfunny script (which he directs, and also stars in here) fails to lift the energetic and exaggerated performances by its actors to a level which inventively mocks its original material. It’s all a bit flaccid.

Dividing the stage into three sections, the staging of Hiding Jekyll  (by John Murrell) immediately looks amateurish but it is Monsted’s script which ultimately reveals  that the rough edges and lack of polish from the source is the real problem: required continual blackouts set to interludes of Mozart’s Requiem seem difficult to resolve practically.

The production’s strength lies within the dynamic buoyancy of its actors and the playability of its physical humour, impressively energised by supporting character Mr Enfield (played by the wide-eyed Dale Wesley Johnson-Green), but the dialogue becomes increasingly irksome as performances become overplayed and resultantly more exaggerated.

The one-dimensional characterisation in Monsted’s script contributes to this ridiculousness, where an admirable effort to create quick banter between his characters falls into a trap of repeating ‘jokes’ that last minutes past their welcome time. Additionally, Monsted’s writing tends to overcompensate for problems encountered within the humour in his piece, resorting to long scenes of dramatic length to spell out the thematic or plot details, such as the moral ambiguity of society, which is already informed by much of the dialogue or actions of characters.

At one point, a character in the play self-reflexively acknowledges that “this play is going nowhere”, and it feels scarily accurate as a way to sum up the problems of the play. Perhaps on the platform of a comedy or open stage, snippets of this spoof would have felt more at place – but as a theatrical production, it does not draw in laughs, and is far from the standard that a semi-professional company should reach. For it to be successful, a spoof needs to be bitingly funny, and executed in an intelligent way that it has something new to say about its original material — and Hiding Jekyll falters on these points.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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