Phil Daniels appears in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at Wolverhampton Grand
A twisted, nerve-jangling tale of horror will play out at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre when Phil Daniels stars in the gothic thriller Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The age-old tale by Robert Louis Stevenson focuses on one of the kind and gifted Dr Jekyll’s most audacious experiments, in which he tries to separate good from evil.
Inadvertently, Jekyll unleashes an alternative personality of pure evil . . . the mysterious Mr Hyde. And as the sinister figure starts causing terror and havoc in foggy London, Jekyll must race to find a cure for his monstrous alter-ego before it takes over for good.
The new production will feature at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre from May 1-5 and stars Phil Daniels, whose extensive and varied credits include Jimmy Cooper in Quadrophenia, Richards in Scum and Kevin Wicks in EastEnders.
Phil has worked with the RSC and NT and appeared on stage in productions as diverse as Les Miserables and This House.
We caught up with the star to find out what made him take on the role of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
How would you describe this version on the classic story?
“It’s set in Victorian London so it’s traditional in that respect and it’s quite close in many respects to the book as well, but it delves into Dr Jekyll’s personal life a bit more. There are more female characters in it, like his sister, and it explores how his father – who started the experiment which Dr Jekyll continues – was never very nice to him in his lifetime.”
What’s your take on the dual characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
“When I first spoke to Jenny King [the show’s producer and creator of the Touring Consortium Theatre Company] about Jekyll and Hyde I was interested in the way sometimes when people have a drink they become different people. You know, they can be as good as gold one day but as soon as they’ve had a drink they become snarling animals. I was interested in that and approaching the characters from a point of view that, even though there is a liquid that Jekyll does take that turns him into this monster or which exposes the darker side of his personality, that darker side is in him already. He just releases it.”
What are the challenges for you as an actor?
“It’s about making it as real as possible – that there are two aspects of his personality and not just a crazed animal that’s come out of nowhere. It’s about finding out why Dr Jekyll is also Edward Hyde. What I don’t want to do is make Hyde just evil, I want the audience to make their own mind up about who’s the worst out of the two of them or who’s the best, which facets of each character they like or appreciate and which facets they don’t. That’s the challenge – to make them both credible people. One might be a villain and one might commit a murder but it’s because of the other one’s personality that he does it.”
Why do you feel theatre audiences love a good stage thriller?
“If there’s a story that captures your imagination and has a beginning, a middle and an end, where something might happen or might not happen, it’s quite thrilling. The Jekyll and Hyde story is just one of those stories that’s always caught people’s imaginations. I don’t know how many pages the book is; I think it’s only about 60 pages long, it’s very slim. It’s a tiny book that has lead to an industry of people making films, musicals, plays, other books, writing about it and analysing it. It’s very popular and understandably so.”
What twists does David Edgar’s play spin on the well-known story?
“He gets at the heart of the story. He tries to give a reason for Jekyll and Hyde’s breakdown, where Jekyll’s father gives him no credit but he gives the daughter credit instead. There’s a secret in the past between the sister and the brother that’s quite violent so it’s not just Hyde who’s the violent one, there’s something violent in Jekyll as well. That’s what’s interesting about Edgar’s script; he gets deep into that. Plus with characters like Lanyon and Utterson there’s a debate going on within the play about Victorian England, how the poor are being treated and whether it’s because of society that people do bad things or because of the binary system of our personalities.”
Have you done any research into the Victorian era? If so, what have you been most interested to learn?
“It’s interesting that medicine was at a stage where they started to think anything was possible. Great leaps forward were happening and to be involved in that as a doctor would have been something someone like Dr Jekyll would have relished. I think part of his motivation for continuing these experiments and to write papers about them is to gain notoriety in medical circles. Maybe he’s just an ordinary doctor who is trying to push his way into being famous.”
You’ve had such a long and varied career. Which roles are you most recognised for?
“Mainly it’s because of Quadrophenia, which has become a cult film over the years. I get a little bit of EastEnders but not so much. [Laughs] It depends on which supermarket you go to; it happens more in Lidl than Marks and Spencer’s but there you go.”
With a role like this do you enjoy disappearing into a character?
“It’s quite a leap for me because I’m playing Jekyll as a posh Edinburgh doctor and Hyde as a Glaswegian. I’m burying myself in all that, but it’s enjoyable getting deep into characters. You have to put the work in. [Laughs] Although I don’t get deep enough to go around murdering people, of course.”
Are you more Jekyll or Hyde? Or a bit of both?
“I think there’s a little bit of me in both of them. There’s a bit of snobbery in Hyde and a bit of swagger in Jekyll but also a bit of swagger in Hyde too. It’s the same with all of us I suppose.”
And finally, you’ll play Wolverhampton Grand at the start of May. Does it have any significance for you?
“All of Blur’s road crew are from Wolverhampton and because of my association with the band hopefully some of those boys will come see the show.”