Dualities abound in Stevenson’s original and the same is true in Kevin MacNeill’s 2010 revisiting. Starting with the thoughts of the main protagonist of his home of Edinburgh:
Even when she’s ugly, she’s beautiful … the never-ending gorgeous grotesque city …. that hotbed of genius and sleaze.
While the original Jekyll had to work at bringing out his Hyde, Robert Lewis (!) has to work at bringing out both characters. He is an actor, cast to play both Jekyll and Hyde in an upcoming piece of theatre. He is also somewhat mixed-up due to the plethora of foster homes he has inhabited as a child. Hard-nosed and egocentric, yet romantic, capable of falling in love at first sight with Juliette, an actress in his company. He is also a cyclist. You can decide whether that is brave or foolhardy. (I, for one, cannot imagine cycling around Edinburgh. There are no cycle lanes, never mind the hills!) Anyway one day the inevitable accident happens which serves as a catalyst for the personality change or rather, the emergence of his personal Mr Hyde.
At the same time as the entrance of Mr Wolffe (don’t you just love the names), the good looking swaggering celebrity actor who has set his sights on Robert’s role and girl. Cue insecurity, paranoia and jealousy and an unravelling which was all rather enjoyable to watch. Each bump on the head (for Robert Lewis receives more than one) triggers further descent into darkness. The tension is always how low will Robert’s Hyde go.
It’s not essential to have read Stevenson’s classic but I’m glad I had. It meant I could pick up the echoings and mirrorings of the original. MacNeill reusing not only themes but structure. As in the original, the second half of the book changes narrator and casts another perspective on the events of the first half. I can’t possibly reveal but acceptance of the deceit is what makes or breaks the novel.
I accepted it though I have rolled my eyes when encountered elsewhere. Then again, I’d already surmised that something of this nature was in the offing. Just my logic kicking in, scenting that something couldn’t be as it appeared on the surface.
As for Edinburgh folklore, should you chance to spot this kind of behaviour —> around the Heart of Midlothian at the Old Tolbooth outside St Giles cathedral, think of this:
There are a number of local traditions associated with the heart. One is that if you walk over the heart you will never find true love. Another that if you’re a visitor and spit on the heart you will one day return to Edinburgh. The last is the belief that if a person living in Edinburgh spits on the mosaic heart, they will find true love.
What further evidence does one need of the beautiful grotesquery of the city?