“If he be Mr. Hyde” he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.” – Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’
I in this instance would be Michael Daviot who weaves together three threads to make up ‘Hyde and Seek.’ As he points out in the show between H and J stands I, and so between himself and his own life’s experiences, Robert Louis Stevenson’s biography and Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde we find the core of the show. Identity is what is sought, the means perhaps stranger than strange, yet potent. It is a straight forward storytelling show in format, but there is nothing straight forward about uncovering man’s battle with himself.
The performance is finely nuanced and the text runs smoothly from one strand to the other. Accounts of nightmares, hallucinations and mental breakdowns help the audience see why the performer and playwright uses the tale of the two aspects of one man fighting with each other to discover his own saga. As he delves into Stevenson’s life his own starts to take shape before us. Prior knowledge of Stevenson or his work is not at all necessary but clearly advantageous. Though many may come to Hyde and Seek due to their love of RLS or Jekyll and Hyde, they may find that it is Daviot they leave thinking about. Endlessly charming as he morphs from one character to the other, from accent to honest accounts, this “Mr. Seek” is what you stay for.
There is a fine line to tread when performing autobiographical material on stage. The danger being that the story becomes too personal, to specific to identify with. Having Robert Louis Stevenson always in sight, Daviot narrowly escapes this pitfall but the comparison may strike some as bordering on obsessive. His knowledge of the material, humour and honest admiration of the truths he finds within it are well worth the obsession though; and if every man has his story, there are worse stories to tell than that of ‘The Strange Case…’ After the play you may find yourself making your own comparisons between your life and the two writers captivated by the “polar twins [..] continuously struggling.”
Every production needs three things, a great performer, a strong and interesting story worth telling, and a setting that fits both. For Hyde and Seek, as Meatloaf would say, two out of three ain’t bad. The basement of C Nova is not a fit venue for such an intimate performance. The reason being that Michael has to fight unnecessarily hard for our attention as we can hear the muffled noise of stand up on one side and music on the other bleed through the walls. This diminishes the feel of the show, making it harder for the audience to truly follow Daviot to the depths of his tale. As it is the Festival audiences will not blame him for this. However, it is sad that such a thing as inadequate sound proofing can rob a performance of its true potency and C Nova are entirely to blame for this. The problem, if not solved, may ultimately conclude in audiences seeking the show in an alternative venue. But whatever the venue, whatever the distractions, the performance is strong enough to hold its own. You are therefore strongly encouraged to find Hyde and Seek. Or to put it another way, let it find you.
Hyde and Seek runs at C Nova until 25 August at 18.35. Running time is 1 hour.