“Cinema is about change,” says Hope Dickson Leach. “We watch folks rework. That’s the guts of the Jekyll and Hyde story.” In February, Dickson Leach’s hybrid manufacturing of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic traditional Unusual Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is taking on Edinburgh’s Leith theatre. In an bold crisscrossing of media, her staff might be concurrently making a dwell theatrical occasion and a livestreamed cinema screening. The mixed footage from the dwell reveals will later be edited right into a function movie. “Our starvation for storytelling is totally different now,” the director says of the colossal challenge. “Audiences need an occasion.”
Dickson Leach is in her workplace in Leith theatre, bundled up in a coat, scarf and brilliant bobble hat. “Half of the theatre has no heating,” she says, her breath seen over Zoom. “I do have three heaters going, however it usually doesn’t heat up till lunchtime. Then at the least I can take my hat off.” The winter solar is blinding by the massive home windows behind her. As she talks animatedly, she flits out and in of shadow and silhouette.
Greater than 120 movie diversifications have been product of the Scottish writer’s 1886 novella about an experimental scientist making an attempt to separate his good and depraved sides. However no model has been dealt with fairly like this. Along with her distinctive mix of theatre and movie, Dickson Leach is utilizing the story to interrogate masculinity and management. “It’s a superb car for taking a look at a few of our most modern villains,” she says, “these huge males in energy. These monsters.”
For the viewers on the dwell occasion in Leith, the expertise must be pretty easy: they sit down and watch a film within the auditorium. What makes it distinctive is that the film is being made round them. “The entire constructing is the set,” says Dickson Leach. The viewers will stroll by the set on their method in and get glimpses of the solid and crew as they transfer in regards to the constructing, utilizing the nooks and crannies of the theatre as workplaces, laboratories and gents’s golf equipment. Because it occurs, the motion might be dwell vision-mixed on display. “It’s being carried out, shot and edited proper in entrance of them.”
The next weekend, the footage might be proven as-live in Scottish cinemas. After that, the staff will edit it right into a function movie to be broadcast on Sky Arts, which might be scored by digital artist Hudson Mohawke – who can be creating some tracks for the dwell present. At that time, Dickson Leach says, they’ll have footage from all three nights, in addition to some rehearsal materials. “It means we get to preview it,” she says, “like a theatre does. Once we watch it with a dwell viewers, we’ll see which bits lag, which scenes we have to lower. All of that stuff can have been examined.”
In rewriting the story, alongside Glasgow-based author Vlad Butucea, Dickson Leach has moved the setting from London to Edinburgh. Many critics have recommended that the Scottish capital is the precise backdrop depicted in Stevenson’s guide. “In the event you learn it, you simply do see Edinburgh,” Dickson Leach says. “It didn’t really feel like a leap.”
By setting the piece within the Scottish capital she is injecting the story with the historical past of the town, significantly the concepts of inequality and hidden darkness that cascade by the guide. “Edinburgh is the town of kings and rulers,” she says, “however it is a metropolis the place folks lived underground for hundreds of years, below the Royal Mile.”
On her lockdown walks, she discovered extra deeply in regards to the metropolis’s previous. “I saved going to Warriston cemetery. It’s utterly overgrown and the graves are falling down, and there’s additionally this flat little bit of grass within the center the place we’d go and have picnics. Then we found it’s a plague pit.” And the attractive gardens subsequent to Princes Avenue, she says, was once a lock the place they’d dunk girls accused of witchcraft. Echoing the duality of the guide, Edinburgh is a metropolis of contrasts. “Monuments are constructed on useless our bodies. Scars of horrific behaviour are constructed into the town itself.”
Round her within the theatre, the movie set is being constructed. She switches from a laptop computer to her telephone and reveals me round, declaring which scenes are going to happen the place. “That is being made to appear like it’s all falling aside,” she says, choosing at a peeling wall. “They’re constructing a set of stairs there.” We wave to the builders. “Then down right here,” she says, “that’s going to be the lab.” In the mean time, every thing’s lined in mud and plywood. Solely small particulars give away what it can actually appear like. She approaches an ornately carved door. “That’s for the gentleman’s membership,” she says, zooming in. “It’s going to be shot in black and white so that provides us a pleasant licence. You don’t have to fret about color and you’ll actually look into texture.” She walks previous just a few metres of maroon wallpaper. “Once you put this in black and white, it seems a bit like lace.” As soon as the present is over, the individuals who run the theatre have stated they will go away up quite a lot of their additions to the house. “The constructing carries all of the tales of the productions which have been right here earlier than.”
The method of choosing out numerous rooms for the best scenes appears enjoyable, but in addition extremely sophisticated. “We’ve got cameras for one scene right here,” she says, pointing down a hall on the left, “after which the following scene is 2 flooring up on the opposite aspect of the constructing.” They’ve received six cameras to journey round with, typically altering lenses between scenes. “We’ve in-built intervals to provide us an opportunity to drag it off.”
When she was youthful, Dickson Leach was a part of the Nationwide Youth Theatre, and at Edinburgh College she made theatre in her spare time. Then movie took over. Her thesis movie The Daybreak Refrain (2007) premiered at Sundance pageant, and her debut function The Levelling debuted at Toronto 10 years later, profitable common acclaim and a Bafta Scotland award for finest screenplay. So when the Nationwide Theatre of Scotland, who’re additionally behind Jekyll and Hyde, requested her to work with them on a bit throughout lockdown, she embraced the possibility to work once more with the stage. Known as Ghost Light, and proven as a part of the Edinburgh worldwide pageant, it was a love letter to theatres, leaping off the thought of the lights left on when a theatre goes darkish. It was fantastic, she says, “working with them and falling again in love with theatre and the best way it’s constructed”.
Her curiosity within the creation of theatre and movie, and what makes them distinct from each other, is impressed partially by earlier work she’s seen that breaks conference and style. She describes watching the Wooster Group’s Hamlet, during which the experimental New York theatre firm performs alongside a projection of the 1964 stage manufacturing starring Richard Burton. “It triggered one thing in my mind,” she says, “this interrogation between the kinds.”
Over the lockdowns, her curiosity grew, however nothing she noticed received as deep into the amalgamation as she needed. “Filmed theatre has been being made for years,” she says. “However a hybrid needs to be a dialog. Is there a spot in the midst of movie and theatre that’s neither or each? That’s the rigidity you must embrace. And that’s the central query of Jekyll and Hyde: how are you going to be two issues directly?”
The phrase “hybrid” could have Frankensteinian connotations of one thing abhorrent, however when contemplating the mix of storytelling kinds, it carries a way of elevation. Does she see it as one or the opposite: good or dangerous? “I believe a hybrid is an effective factor,” she says with certainty. “In the event you’re positioning it as a monstrous factor, doesn’t that belong to a faculty of thought the place purity is nice? Isn’t that the Boris Johnson form of 100% British considering? The concept hybridity is to be feared?”
As an alternative, she argues, this liminal house is one thing to be each celebrated and investigated. It appears her view aligns with Stevenson’s. When the writer was requested if the duality throughout the guide was actually an allegory for one factor or one other, he refused to make clear. “All the things is true,” he wrote, “solely the alternative is true, too; you need to consider each equally or be damned.”
The Unusual Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde screens as-live in choose cinemas throughout the UK from 27 February.