Actor Mr Richard Mansfield in the Lyceum production of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The murder scene, at the end of Act 1 in Mansfield’s Jekyll & Hyde, was described by the experienced and respected theatre critic, Clement Scott in the Daily Telegraph, 6 August 1888, as “the most powerful and horrible thing ever seen on the modern stage.”
That such a description could be applied to an act of throttling in the half-lit green gloom of a stage speaks volumes for the nature of the times, I think. In pre-Jack 1888, however, it appears that this was sufficient to cause ladies to faint, and “make any audience shudder and go home terrified in the dark watches of the night.” (There had been suggestions in America that the fainting ladies were paid members of the performance.)
Nevertheless, once Whitechapel murders came to prominence, analogies with Jekyll & Hyde were frequently drawn, and Mansfield’s Lyceum performances were looked to as a possible cause.
Among other similar theories, on 3 October 1888, the Daily Telegraph’s “Letters from the Public” included:
“‘G. C.’ has a fancy ‘that the perpetrator is a being whose diseased brain has been inflamed by witnessing the performance of the drama of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ - which I understand is now wisely withdrawn from the stage. If there is anything in this, let the detectives consider how Mr. Hyde would have acted - for there may be a system in the demonic actions of a madman in following the pattern set before him.’"
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