by Bram Stoker
in a new adaptation by Ross McGregor.
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH to 27October 2018.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 11 October.
Blood flows but none chilled
Arrows and Traps had a hit here last year with their production of Frankenstein so it is not surprising they and director and writer Ross McGregor have turned to Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a follow up. It is a handsomely staged and well acted evening, but somewhere along the line they have failed to create an evening of horror – the titters start early on and as the Kensington Gore starts to flow unstoppably things get rather silly and even slightly tedious. We have been here before – possibly too often.
In its favour McGregor’s version brings out the sexuality of the vampire legend with men preying on women and in turn they too become predators with great, possibly over emphasised, clarity. Also there is an intriguing sex change, which for once is worth doing and not just another acknowledgement to current fashion.
Renfield, the insect eating madman, is now a woman and gets a terrific manic performance from Cornelia Bauman, all mad twitches and swirling russet locks who eats her insects with truly disgusting relish.
But as the seducer supreme Christopher Tester’s Dracula, although imposing enough figure, exudes no great sexual charisma and very little sexual danger, Andrew Wickes’ Van Helsing is just the usual stock foreigner with funny accent, and Conor Moss as Jonathan Harker really is too much of a wimp for one to care, but he is anyway in the original. The assorted women, however, lust enthusiastically writhing all over the stage at the prospect of a night with the bat.
McGregor has devised is a challenging, interesting way of telling a story that has probably been done to death over the years but it does not quite work as a horror story. Dracula is too familiar, too linked to Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee in the Hammer films for the story to do what it was designed to do – chill the blood. The press night audience laughed a lot and no shivers of fear were engendered – somehow it was one darn thing after another, one more neck nuzzle, yet more blood flowing like tomato sauce. The laugh is an essential part of all horror narrative – that sudden happening that scares the life out of the audience but is actually not what it has been led to believe. But laughing at what is going on is something else altogether.
By this company’s standards Dracula is a patchy affair, worth seeing because it is very good in parts. The cast cope with an impressive, but awkward set brilliantly, and there is a really good noises off background to play against. But that fourth star eludes them.
Renfield: Cornelia Bauman
Arthur Holmwood: Oliver Brassell.
Lucy Westenra: Lucy Ioannou.
Jonathan Harker: Conor Moss.
Jack Seward: Alex Stevens.
Dracula: Christopher Tester.
Mina Mirray: Beatrice Vincent.
Abraham Van Helsing: Andrew Wickes.
Director: Ross McGregor.
Set Designer: Francine Huin-Wah.
Costume Designer: Odine Corie.
Choreography: Roman Berry.
Lighting Design: Ben Jacobs.
Movement Direction: Will Pinchin.
Fight Direction: Yarit Dor.
Sound Design: Alistair Lax.