Review by Cavan Gilbey
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a corner stone of the gothic
horror genre. A compelling novella telling the tale of one man’s struggles to fight human nature’s
violent impulses as well as being a great study on the psychology behind public and private
personas. Of course there have been dozens of interpretations across all the major mediums; tv,
film, stage and even a small handful of video game adaptations. I’ve always been partial to John
Barrymore’s silent film adaption from 1920 and I was introduced to the story by seeing a local drama
society perform a stage adaptation, but I only read the novel relatively recently. Dr Jekyll and Mr
Hyde is one of those stories we are just born knowing due to its wide-spread integration into
cultures across the globe.
Naturally that makes creating a wholly original or fresh take on the story incredibly difficult as you
will inevitably cover ground covered by any number of tv mini-series or modernised stage
adaptations. Big Finish had a bit of task on their hand when it came to making their adaptation stand
out in the ocean of content surrounding this story; a task they don’t really try to cover.
What we have hear is an incredibly accurate and faithful adaptation of Stevenson’s text, staying true
to the characterisations and events of the novella without really any deviation. And that could be the
biggest downfall here. Nicholas Briggs has provided us with a no bells or whistles version of the
story; what we get is basically a direct transposition of Stevenson’s novel even down to bits of
dialogue being directly lifted. And while this is produced and directed with Briggs’ signature eye for
quality, there is little to entice lovers of this story. The wonderful thing about adaptation is that you
have leeway to make the story suit your vision; some of the best novel adaptions by Big Finish have a
director’s or writer’s authorial signature written all over them (the H G Wells adaptations are by far
the best example of what can be done with audio adaptations) but with this latest entry in the Big
Finish Classics range I don’t feel like much of Briggs’ voice comes out in making this version of the
story his own.
The cast are what sell this adaptation as they are brilliant, really encapsulating the tone and
atmosphere of the gothic aesthetic. John Heffernan offers a good double performance as the titular
duo, providing an aged fragility to his Jekyll which nicely juxtaposes the snarling monstrous persona
of Hyde. Heffernan’s Hyde performance is intimidating and really sells the decent into depravity that
Jekyll suffers when he is forced to succumb to the Hyde persona. Barnaby Kay’s Utterson is another
great casting choice here, bringing a sense of warmth in those scenes with Jekyll where you can
really feel that friendly relationship become realised but Kay also manages to capture the confusion
and fear Utterson has as his role in the police investigation becomes more prominent.
I find it really difficult to recommend or even grade this release, in fact I’m not going to score it a few
reasons; firstly this just do enough to separate itself from the multitude of adaptions, making it
unfortunately slip into obscurity, secondly the performances are really the only thing I can grade this
on and they are up to the usual standard we have from Big Finish. I still maintain that this is an
enjoyable adaptation, but you have to go in knowing this is a real no thrills no spills version of the
story. A good adaptation but I feel like Briggs could have done so much more with the story, maybe
then it might be able to stand on it’s a bit better.
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