BBC Radio 4 Extra, 19 May 2012
Glyn Dearman's 1985 production was narrated by Mr. Utterson (Bernard
Hepton), an outwardly respectable member of late nineteenth century polite London society, who gradually became sucked into
a sinister world of experiments instigated by Henry Jekyll (Michael Aldridge). At the beginning of the tale Utterson tried
to preserve a respectable facade, but as he narrated the terrible events, his voice began to throb with emotion. By the end
it was clear that he had undergone a terrible experience, even while recounting events that had happened in the past.
Dearman's production focused on the vocal contrast between Aldridge's Jekyll and
James Bryce's Hyde: as with many of his roles, Aldridge cut a reassuring presence with his baritone voice, which always seemed
as if it had been marinated in honey. He did not like the kind of person to meddle in the unknown. By contrast Bryce's
Hyde sounded rough, almost animal-like as he confronted Utterson; for a few moments at least, it seemed as if our narrator
would meet the same grisly fate as Dr. Lanyon (Garard Green), who was beaten to death with Jekyll's cane.
Eventually Jekyll and Hyde were brought together in an effective transformation scene,
which began with Aldridge speaking more and more feverishly, and finishing his speech with a blood-curdling yell. There was
a short pause, and Bryce's grating voice emerged from the silence. The good doctor had been completely metamorphosed into
a bestial creature determined to cause mayhem.
In the end we felt sorry for the doctor; in spite of his experiments, he was at heart
a good man. Death came as a painful release, as he writhed on the ground to the accompaniment of some unearthly music, and
then lay still.
Dearman's production was at times quite violent - especially when Hyde trampled over
a little girl (her pitiful screams punctuating the soundtrack) and subsequently murdered Lanyon. At the same time it preached
a moral lesson through Utterson, advising all listeners not to meddle with the balance of nature.
The programme formed part of Radio 4 Extra's Seventh Dimension, a nightly
slot dedicated to horror and science fiction. It was introduced in appropriately hushed tones by Lionel Fanthorpe. I have
just one small point to make: he claimed he saw Spencer Tracy in Dr Jekyll during the 1930s. This would have been
impossible, as Tracy did not make the film until 1941. It was Fredric March who made the first sound version in 1931, directed
by Rouben Mamoulian.