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Stunning drama at Sheppey Little Theatre, Sheerness

By John Nurden

Could you remove a person’s kidney in the dark?

That is the stark opening line of James Hyland’s stunning one-man show The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Sheppey Little Theatre, Saturday).

Immediately the audience was gripped. This award-winning actor never fails to amaze.

Publicity image
Publicity image

There were no Hammer Horror-style props such as smoking potions or racks of test tubes.

Instead, he switched instantly from straight-laced doctor to horribly hunch-backed Mr Hyde with just some menacing jerks.

The only help he had on stage was a wooden podium which doubled as a door or operating table.

The one-hour show is set during the final academy lecture of Dr Jekyll – interestingly pronounced “Jeekal” – as he insists all of us are made of good and evil and how he has devised a drug to release the hidden half.

James Hyland - out of make-up
James Hyland - out of make-up

Hyland even comes up with his own theory on the identity of Jack The Ripper who sliced up White Chapel whores in London’s East End. Could it have been the devilish Mr Hyde?

The language was sometimes shocking but always mesmerising as he filled the auditorium with blood-curdling screams.

The voice of Hyde shares similarities with Gollum in Lord of the Rings or even a sip of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.

James Hyland as the Ghost of Jacob Marley
James Hyland as the Ghost of Jacob Marley

Hyland is no stranger to darkly fascinating productions. Fagin’s Last Hour (his take on Dickens’ Oliver Twist) and A Christmas Carol (as told by Jacob Marley’s ghost) are the works of genius.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is an emotional roller-coaster which keeps the audience on the edge of its seats right up to, and including, the last line.

The only problem with the Sheppey performance was there were so few to enjoy it.

But Hyland will be back in Kent next month with two shows at the Marlowe Theatre Studio in Canterbury.

The first on Thursday December 7 is already sold out but there are still tickets (£13.75) for the second on Friday December 8.

Poster for the show.
Poster for the show.

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