Imagine being in a space where all your favourite 'Mighty Boosh' and 'Monty Python' characters are playing together, and you get to play too.
Though this still doesn’t quite capture the surreal magic of 'Jekyll & Hyde', it gives you an inkling of what you can expect.
Leo Gene Peters is the Director of this new production from A Slightly Isolated Dog, and he says the dynamic show “falls between the worlds of comedy, cabaret, and theatre. It’s none of these things but it’s made up of elements of all of these things”.
Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic novella, the show centres around Dr Jekyll, who develops a potion designed to rid himself of evil. Of course, the potion backfires, giving power to that evil and dragging Jekyll into the modern world.
“We’re interested in looking at the darkness within all of us and how that manifests itself in often really mundane ways. By using an otherworldly horror tale as a way to examine the ordinary issues we face, we can reveal the ridiculousness of our lives and how we try to grapple with our own self-destructiveness.”
Though this sounds dark, Leo describes the space you’ll step into for the performance as having a “playful, party-like atmosphere.” This is as much a celebration of our darkness as it is an unofficial group therapy session for it. “The performers are charming, larger-than-life beings who are happy to play the fool for the audience. They exhibit all our insecurities, anxieties, fears, and desires, our loneliness and sadness, but they do it in a way that’s delightful and charming and funny.”
You’ll be taken through every dark thing you usually ignore but without the angst that tends to accompany such revelations. The performers have all the embarrassing public meltdowns so you don’t have to.
“They let loose about COVID and social distancing and feeling isolated and lonely and scared and all these real feelings everyone in the world is having now. All of that is in the work but it has a delightful distance because it’s about Dr Jekyll, it’s not about us, but it is about us.”
If you’ve been dubious about 'Jekyll & Hyde' ever since you read the words “you get to play too,” you’re not alone – everyone involved in the show hates audience participation. “We hate it so much. But what we hate is when the audience member becomes the butt of the joke. That’s the easiest thing to do for a performer but it engenders fear in the audience. So we never ever make the audience the butt of the joke.”
“We’re always the fools, and no matter what you do, the actors will make you look amazing. However people choose to participate is celebrated, and if you don’t want to do it, we’ll move on. There’s no pressure from us.”
There are no special seats to avoid if you’re not keen on getting involved. Over many performances, the actors have gained a sixth sense for recognising those people who just want to watch.
However, they’ve noticed an interesting trend: “We have so many people who tell us they came in and went right to the back and didn’t want to get involved,” Leo says. “Then halfway through the show, they’ve seen how easy and fun it is and all they want to do is be a part of it.”
Should you choose to participate, Leo promises you’ll be “guided, supported, and celebrated in a space that’s playful and fun.” Indeed, audience reviews reveal that people are walking away feeling genuinely uplifted. “We’ve had some really interesting reactions from people. In one of the shows, we asked the audience to help a character through a crisis moment. One woman got on her knees, crawled across the space, held him and told him how amazing he was.”
This gesture melted hearts not just in the audience but among the performers too. They’re continually surprised by moments like this where genuine compassion shines through, and despite the fact that it’s all make-believe, moments of true human connection are forged.
“We get to witness people open up and be bold and do things they otherwise would never do. The audience members support and celebrate each other and it’s a beautiful vibe for everyone.”
’Jekyll & Hyde' plays Brisbane Powerhouse from 2-6 June.