Lung Ha Theatre Company and Drake Music Scotland provide opportunities for talented performers with physical disabilities and learning difficulties. I first saw Lung Ha perform in the 80s and was mightily impressed by them and I’m pleased to say that is still the case. Morna Pearson has created a riveting reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella, this time with a feminist twist and a good deal of humour to lighten an otherwise dark tale.
The live music, provided by composer and Musical Director Greg Sinclair on piano and five musicians and vocalists, is eerie and atmospheric. The set, designed by Becky Minto, relocates the story from London to the dark and claustrophobic closes and tenements of 19th century Edinburgh. Here we meet the Jekyll family – Dr Jeremy Jekyll ( Stephan Tait), his wife Jane (Karen Sutherland), son William (Mark Howie) and, last but not least, his daughter Miriam (Emma McCaffrey). Miriam is an intelligent girl who longs to go to University but, as a woman, she is constrained both physically and emotionally. Physically by the tight corsets she must wear and emotionally by the expectation on her to conform to the role of the weaker sex. She helps her father with his experiments and is fascinated by his theory of good and evil personalities cohabiting within every living soul. After drinking a potion in the laboratory one evening she unleashes her other self and embarks on a rebellious whirlwind of a journey with her dark twin.
At first this manifests itself in harmless fun but soon becomes more serious. Miriam is aghast at what she seems capable of doing and contemplates taking her life. The original story ends in tragedy but thankfully here we have a happy ending. Dr Jekyll saves the day and Miriam becomes free to follow her dreams.
With a cast of over 20 performers and support staff, we meet a range of diverse and comic characters. The timing isn’t always perfect and there might be a few fluffed lines here and there but you know what, it doesn’t matter, because the overall effect is fun, exuberant and immensely enjoyable.
If you have never seen a Lung Ha production before, I urge you to look out for them – you won’t regret it.