7 August 1888
The experience of last night's production of Mr. Daniel E. Bandmann's version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" proves that the only safe way of treating the subject, if it must be dealt with at all, is from an earnest and serious point of view. Every laugh weakens the hold of the mysterious Jekyll and Hyde double individuality upon the audience, every attempt to lighten the lugubrious terrors of the play is fraught with the danger of bringing those terrors into contempt and of holding them up to derision. This is more palpably shown when the laugh is made to sound in dreadful discord at the most pathetic and solemn moments of the play. The outcome of our observation may be the more to convince us of the unsuitableness for stage purpose of Mr. Stevenson's peculiar illustration of metempsychosis, but at any rate it is certain that the only chance for the subject, at the risk of wearying the audience, is to be found in the almost unvaried tragedy of the story. Mr. Bandmann has doubtless felt that the unnatural and unholy experiments of the metaphysical Dr. Henry Jekyll would pall upon an audience if detailed upon the stage during a whole evening, but that such variety as he has ventured upon is a remedy worse than the disease. His play bears a singular likeness to that produced on Saturday at the Lyceum. The love interest is made a prominent item in the development of the plot. Jekyll's beloved, Sybil (Miss Louise Beaudet), the daughter of the Rev. William Howell (Mr. Sydney Price), has her father murdered by Hyde in the first act; the story of the illtreatment of the child by the monster has been previously told by Howell to Utterson (Mr. G. Herbert Leonard), who offers his remonstrances to Jekyll upon his having made Hyde his legatee, and later on Hyde finds his landlady with a bank note, which, in this case, Sybil has given her to bribe her to impart information about her lodger, and he tears it up as Mr. Sullivan's Mr. Hyde does, only in Mr. Bandmann's version the destruction of the note is followed by the strangling of the woman-a proceeding that certainly is a more probable one. The end comes in somewhat the same way. Jekyll feels that his hold upon his original form is getting weaker and weaker (he has, in the previous act, sent his drugs to Dr. Lanyon (Mr. Henry Loraine), and has effected the change from Hyde to Jekyll in the apartment of his brother doctor, and he has the poison ready to take at the end. In last night's play Hyde once more obtains the mastery over his victim, not to die immediately, but to have an access of diabolical rage, and to demolish everything within his reach, only destroying himself at the finish to escape paying the penalty of his crimes. With so many similarities to Mr. Sullivan's play, it is unfortunate for Mr. Bandmann that he has attempted variations that had no influence upon the plot, and a very injurious one upon the audience. The hymn of the choir boys as the curtain rises, and that with which they enter the church, followed by their vicar, had a humanizing, sacred effect, and was a fine contrast to the story of Hyde, and marked with a deeper hue the horror of the good clergyman's murder; but when they are afterwards brought into the presence of the bereaved Sybil, who sits down to the pianoforte and plays an accompaniment for the boys to sing "Rock a bye, baby," we almost ask ourselves if it be offered in serious earnest. The hoydenish comedy of Lillian Utterson (Miss L. Seccombe) is, without any slur upon the ability of the young actress who has to express it, a cruel outrage upon the pathos of the situation. Even Sybil herself does not seem quite decided as to whether she ought to laugh or cry, and changes from cheerfulness to gloom in a very extraordinary manner. Comic policemen who talk to cooks about pies in the pantry, comic servants who approach the street door, as the domestics used to do in the burglary scene of "Oliver Twist," are all fatal hindrances to the success of the weird play. If Mr. Bandmann be wise, he will root out this entirely, tone down the exuberance of Lillian's high spirits, and give the policeman O'Brien little more to do than to give his evidence about seeing Jekyll in that person's house when he was searching for Hyde, which was excellently rendered by Mr. Eardley Turner. Mr. Bandmann was well received on his reappearance last night, after many years' absence from England, during which he has been three times round the world. His rendition of the dual parts was highly commendable, although he did not make a prepossessing lover. Doubtless Dr. Jekyll's make-up has to be sacrificed to Mr. Hyde's, the change from one character to the other being very cleverly made again and again in front of the audience. He was impassioned in his love scenes, and threw considerable power into the part of Jekyll throughout. His Mr. Hyde was also a good performance, fiendish and ghoul-like, but his legs were in his way, and he lacked springiness and activity. Miss Louise Beaudet's Sybil was somewhat unequal. This was doubtless a little the adaptor's fault, for there were scenes, notably those towards the end of the drama, which were earnest and powerful. One of the best-played parts in the piece was that of Dr. Lanyon, by Mr. Henry Loraine, who has not been in London since he acted Antony at the Princess's to Miss Glyn's Cleopatra. The character is only in the play up to the third act, which he ends, but it is a very important one, and the old, experienced actor showed Mr. Bandmann's wisdom in retaining him for it. Mr. Herbert Leonard was matter of fact as Utterson, but not much more; and Mr. Sydney Price gave a very suitable rendering of the short part of the Vicar. Mr. Calhaem's butler, Poole, was excellently acted, his passionate speeches descriptive of his anxiety about his master's fate being given with much force and naturalness. The small part of Mrs. Viley found a good exponent in Miss Ada Neilson, whose make-up completely disguised her. The drama is illustrated with two or three especially attractive scenes, the opening one in particular. During the evening Mr. Bandmann, Miss Beaudet, Mr. Loraine, and Mr. Calhaem were called in front of the curtain, and at the end of the drama Mr. Bandmann addressed a few words to the audience. Thanking those present for their kindness, and leaving the decision about the play for good or evil to the public and the press, he went on to remark that he might say a good deal, but that he did not think that the stage was the place to discuss private quarrels; that actors should wash their linen at home. He had been content to have his case judged by the law of the land. He then referred to his travels, and expressed his wonder on returning to England that this little country should govern such vast regions over which he had journeyed. Once more thanking his hearers, the actor retired, cordially applauded by sympathising friends.