Based very loosely on the story of Jekyll and Hyde, Hide is set 15 years after Henry Jekyll's experiments – 15 years since, they say, he unleashed his serum on society and broke everyone's self into eight 'vapours'. The government says that only a mysterious 'device' can save people, rebalancing these vapours and making everyone wholly suited to their life 'path'. They say being assigned a path removes the terrible burden of choice; they say it allows people to best serve society; they say it is necessary. But not everyone believes what they say.
Six women are given their paths in life. For five of them their paths are not what they strived for – not what they hoped for. But for the sixth there’s something even more ominous: no path at all, no place in society. Before we can even wonder what this might mean for her, we see them imprisoned, charged with dissent and awaiting sentencing. As they start to blame each other we see how the group formed, each one getting pulled into a search for the truth, united by their hope that things could be different.
This original piece is engaging and entertaining, the choreography and staging is slick and the mystery plays out well. The steampunk setting and Jekyll and Hyde inspiration provide an excellent backdrop for this disturbing world, where the government is trying to turn people into machines – sometimes literally. The costumes are superb, strongly in the steampunk theme and well suited to each individual character. The relatively empty stage, with clever use of light tubes, works well to set a dystopian feel and differentiated the different times and locations of the action; meanwhile, disembodied voices of authority set the tone perfectly.
The women assigned paths have their expectations for their lives constrained, and they are denied the right to try, to strive to achieve their potential. In trying to rebel, they doubt the impact they can have – but as we approach the centenary of the 1918 bill on women's suffrage, this provides a timely reminder that change has to start somewhere.
But the quality of the scene-setting isn't always matched by the standard of the performance. I felt some of the characters were overly stereotyped – particularly Flo's very forced stammer. If it was an attempt to represent the effects of being 'balanced', then we would have benefitted from more flashback scenes to make the transition clearer. Also, while the shadow puppets explaining the history of Jekyll and his serum were a nice touch, they were often out of focus and difficult to make out – a particular shame as the rest of the staging suited the room very well.
Despite those problems, Hide is an interesting exploration of how people are affected by society trying to force them into paths that the government deems useful, and in turn looking at how important the right to make individual choices – even if they are the wrong ones – can be.