Hi, I'm Mark Stratford and I set up Stratford Productions in 2019 in order to present my solo shows. Currently these are:
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
I am delighted to be performing both of these at the Rialto Theatre as part of this year's Brighton Fringe. Both shows are available for touring. Request a tour pack.
Here are the programmes for both shows:
"The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted, designed & performed by Mark Stratford
Running time: 80 minutes
First published in 1886, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is a mystery tale about the inexorable conflict between good and evil.
This stage version has been faithfully abridged and adapted from the novella for solo performance. Wherever possible all the key story points and Stevenson’s words have been used, and the play’s structure follows that of the chapters of the book.
The setting is Victorian London, in a large meeting room at Scotland Yard, where Inspector Newcomen and Mr. Utterson (Dr. Henry Jekyll’s lawyer and most trusted friend) recount for the assembled audience the climactic events that unfolded at Jekyll’s house the night before and, in so doing, explain the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde…
The show's potted history:
I first thought of adapting the story of Jekyll and Hyde into a one-person show over 30 years ago and had a go at writing the first few pages of the script when I attended a playwriting course at the Actors’ Centre in London. After that I worked on the script intermittently, sometimes putting it away ‘in the drawer’ for a number of years before getting it out again, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I felt I had a workable draft that I could go into rehearsal with. With the help of director, Jo Emery, who I met through the Company of Ten, the show was given its first try-out in a lunchtime slot at the Abbey Theatre in St. Albans in March 2014 before going on to perform later that year at the Maltings Arts Theatre (St. Albans), the Camden Fringe Festival (at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, sponsored by the Company of Ten), before ending up back at the Abbey Theatre for a couple of nights in April 2015.
In 2019 I revived the show as a charity fund-raiser. It was intended to be a one-off performance but the tickets sold so quickly that more performances were added. A large number of the ticket-buyers being students studying the text.
It’s difficult to say too much about the story itself without giving away spoilers for those coming to the story for the first time. But here are a few statements I’ve picked out about the time and context in which the story is set…
The story gives intense and disturbing expression to Stevenson's lifelong fascination with evil, and it is a measure of his achievement that he successfully demonstrates the seductiveness, as well as the horror, of an existence freed of all moral restraint.
Jekyll’s attraction to the freedom from restraint that Hyde enjoys mirrors Victorian England’s secret attraction to the then so-called uncivilised non-Western cultures, even as Europe claimed superiority over them. This attraction also informs such books as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. For, as the Western world came in contact with other peoples and ways of life, it found aspects of these cultures within itself, and both desired and feared to indulge them. These aspects included open sensuality, physicality, and other so-called irrational tendencies. Even as Victorian England sought to assert its civilization over and against these instinctual sides of life, it found them secretly fascinating. Indeed, Victorian society’s repression of its darker side only increased the fascination.
For the characters in the story, preserving one’s reputation emerges as all important. The prevalence of this value system is evident in the way that upright men such as Utterson and Enfield avoid gossip at all costs; they see gossip as a great destroyer of reputation. Similarly, when Utterson suspects Jekyll first of being blackmailed and then of sheltering Hyde from the police, he does not make his suspicions known; part of being Jekyll’s good friend is a willingness to keep his secrets and not ruin his respectability. The importance of reputation in the story also reflects the importance of appearances, facades, and surfaces, which often hide a sordid underside. In many instances in the novel, Utterson, true to his Victorian society, adamantly wishes not only to preserve Jekyll’s reputation but also to preserve the appearance of order and decorum, even as he senses a vile truth lurking underneath.
It will become evident as you watch the story unfold that the characters shy away from discussing or mentioning the sordid. This reflects the Victorian society in which they live. It prized decorum and reputation above all and preferred to repress or even deny the truth if that truth threatened to upset the conventionally ordered worldview.
And finally, I like to interpret Stevenson’s reticence on the topic of Jekyll’s and Hyde’s crimes as a conscious choice not to defuse their chilling aura with descriptions that might only dull them. I, therefore, suggest that the "carnal proclivities" referred to by Inspector Newcomen in the play are best left to your imagination...
The story of one of the greatest actor-managers of the 19th Century - William Charles Macready
Written, designed & performed by Mark Stratford
Running time: 80 minutes
The show charts the life of one of the greatest actor-managers of the 19th Century - William Charles Macready.
The story of Macready - the man to whom Charles Dickens dedicated Nicholas Nickleby - is one of the most remarkable to come out of the theatre.
‘The Distressed Mother’
‘Virginius’ & The Slump
Final Farewell Forever
The show's potted history:
I started my research on Macready in January 2017 and in October 2019 I performed the first half of the play in the Watford Palace Studio as part of that year's Watford Fringe.
The full version of the play was given its first airing as a Company of Ten 'Stage Two' (try-out) production on the main stage of the Abbey Theatre in St Albans in September 2020. This try-out was followed a few weeks later by performances at the Watford Fringe and then the Brighton Fringe (Sweet Werks 2). The shows were all streamed due to the Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time, but it was also great to see a few people venture out in their masks to watch in the auditorium.
William Charles Macready occupied that time between the great actor, Edmund Kean, at the start of the 19th Century and the distinguished actor-manager, Sir Henry Irving, at its end. Macready is not as well-known as them, but his influence on the theatre of today is huge.
Charles Dickens was Macready’s best friend and Robert Browning wrote The Pied Piper of Hamelin to amuse Macready’s son Willie when he was ill.
When Macready first stepped onto the stage as Romeo in 1810, theatres were lit by candlelight and the acting style of the day consisted mostly of bravura gestures and histrionics - with the actor facing front and addressing the audience rather than a fellow player.
And, at that time, theatres were associated with idleness, drunkenness, frivolity and prostitution, and those who worked in them were considered to be social and artistic outcasts. Against this backdrop, Macready set about learning his craft.
But he never wanted to be an actor. Although he was born into the profession - his parents both actors - he dreamed of becoming a barrister and a gentleman. But after his education was cut cruelly short following his father’s bankruptcy, Macready was plunged into the ungentlemanly world of the stage.
He became a man of many conflicts: he loved his art, especially Shakespeare, but hated his profession; in the theatre he had a violent temper but could be the kindest of men outside it.
“I wish I were anything rather than an actor - except a critic; let me be unhappy rather than vile!” (William Charles Macready)
Nevertheless, Macready became a pioneer - revolutionising the theatre of his day.
He was the first to insist on full and proper rehearsals, and ensured that the smallest part was as well rehearsed as the largest.
He restored many of Shakespeare's texts to their original versions after a century-and-a-half of rewriting by various post-Restoration "improvers."
He was the first to banish prostitutes from plying their trade in the auditorium - although there were many who didn't thank him for that...
And he did more to encourage new playwrights in his day that anyone else; Byron, Browning, Dickens, Knowles, Bulwer-Lytton, and many others, all wrote plays for him - many of which he helped to rewrite!
It is said, in fact, that Macready became - in every sense of the word - the founder of modern theatre practice. During his time as an actor-manager, he put into effect nearly every principle we now take for granted; of directing, design, lighting, costuming, as well as the training of actors.
Macready’s greatest rival was Edmund Kean and they enjoyed a few “gladiatorial contests” on stage in Kean’s latter years. But after Kean’s death in 1835 the way was clear for Macready to become the undisputed head of his profession.
About Mark Stratford
As an actor I've appeared in West End shows (Blood Brothers, Singin' in the Rain, Peter Pan, The Magic Flute, and The Enchanted Toyshop), national and foreign tours, repertory seasons and pantomimes, as well as small parts in Film, TV and Radio.
A big thank you to Katy Matthews for all her technical assistance at the Rialto including doing the lighting and sound operation for both shows.
I'd also like to thank the Company of Ten in St. Albans for they gave me the opportunity to try out the shows in their early stages of development. Also to Jo Emery for her support and encouragement at the very beginning of my solo show journey.
Most recently I'd like to thank my wife Abbe for all her hours of support and valuable artistic advice as I revived Jekyll & Hyde and developed Drama King. She certainly went beyond the call of duty by listening to me read the early versions of the Drama King drafts to her!
Thanks, of course, to you for coming to see the show/s - I hope you enjoy it/them.