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Jekyll and Hyde, The Old Vic, dance review: ‘Danced with gusto by a stylish cast’

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Jekyll and Hyde, The Old Vic, dance review: ‘Danced with gusto by a stylish cast’

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Drew McOnie’s new Jekyll and Hyde both confirms him as a strong theatrical talent, while suffering from a lack of emotional depth. This production zips along, danced with gusto by a stylish cast. It’s just happier playing with 1950s imagery than with getting its teeth into the story.

McOnie, who founded his own company in 2013, is very obviously a choreographer on the way up. He works in both dance and theatre, with Matthew Bourne’s blend of danced storytelling clearly a very strong influence. His choreography for the musical In the Heights won an Olivier, and he’s now associate artist at the Old Vic.

Jekyll and Hyde moves Robert Louis Stevenson’s story to the 1950s – or rather, into a Little Shop of Horrors­ 1950s-ish world. His Jekyll, the rubber-limbed Daniel Collins, works in a flower shop, where he pines over Rachel Muldoon’s fragrant Dahlia, and cooks up plant-improving potions. After a cut finger adds blood to his latest mixture, Mr Hyde starts taking over.

McOnie swaps between two dancers, from the fast, flexible Collins to the beefier Tim Hodges, all macho strut and aggressive stance. The flip from one to the other is enjoyably staged: lightning strikes in the shower, or in the shadows. Where Jekyll is shyly besotted, Hyde stomps out to parties where he can have any girl he wants.

The associate artist doesn’t dramatise why his women go weak at the knees for the aggressive caveman; they just do, because that’s the sort of thing that happens in 1950s musicals. There’s little sense of Hyde as Jekyll’s id, of suppressed desires bubbling over. Jekyll comes to himself to find Hyde has killed someone – and skips straight back into a sweet duet with Dahlia, apparently guilt-free.

The gorier second half is much weaker, because its sex and violence lacks motivation. We don’t see the temptation and compulsion behind the crimes. Of the victims, only Alexzandra Sarmiento’s flower-shop assistant has pathos, killed as she was really enjoying her work.

The production is stylish. Soutra Gilmour’s clever set spins from the richly detailed flower shop to street to club; the changing scenery underpins Jekyll’s changeable nature. Grant Olding’s perky rock score keeps the action moving, while wandering around the decades – mostly 1950s, with some more modern rock riffs. The 1950s could be a bright choice for a story about repression and duality, but this setting mostly comes across as a shallow aesthetic. McOnie’s dancers do him proud, making the most of his fluent steps and brisk storytelling.

Until 28 May. Box office 0844 871 7628

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