by Bram Stoker
adapted by Kate Kerrow.
The London Library, St James Square, London SW1Y 4LG to 3 March 2019.
Wed-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766 266.
Review: William Russell 7 February.
A blood drenched evening of chills and sexual frustration
Bram Stoker was a member of the London Library between 1890 and 1897 when he was manager of The Lyceum Theatre and was researching Dracula. That has long been known, but the Library recently discovered that it had some 26 books which he had consulted and which contained detailed notes in the margin in his handwriting. One thing led to another and the Library has put on its first play, a production by the Oxford based creation theatre, a company which stages its productions in unexpected locations. The London Library’s impressive book lined Reading Room proved an ideal setting for Kate Kerrow’s reimagining of the story which is now set in the 1950s and, while it does not alter the plot, is miles away from what most people consider to be Dracula – the Hammer film starring Christopher Lee. Cineastes know of other actors, but when it comes to having actually read the book the chances are that few now have done so.
Kerrow has focused not on Dracula but on Jonathan Harker and his bride Mina, who are still to consummate their union so dreadful were the things he suffered in Transylvania, and she has set it in the 1950s. This allows her to make Mina a woman who finds the constraints of the time irksome as an intelligent woman, while Jonathan has problems = given what happened – dealing with being protector and husband. In other words it is all about sex.
Bart Lambert is an impassioned and tortured Harker and Sophie Greenham a deeply frustrated Mina. They also play all the other parts to real effect, displaying considerable versatility with only minor costume changes to help. and director Helen Tennison, as well as making full use of the Library’s structures, also employs video scenes, some in shadow play, to illustrate what is going on.
Dracula may not be played by an actor, but he appears as a bat flying into the room and as a blood stained face with the inevitable fangs on a screen which dominates the acting area. Kerrow has told the story back to front as it were – we get the Harkers going through agonies as he suffers the psychological collapse caused by what he went through and she the sexual frustration his inability to bed her has caused. This is not about Dracula or Van Helsing – who does appear – or the fly eating Renfield, who also appears, as does the hapless Lucy, although she is an image, but about a marriage in crisis.
It is in act two that we go back to the beginning and things all slot in to place just in time because although it is an interesting approach to an over familiar story it, does lead to some confusion. However thunder roars and lightning flashes on cue, things go bump in the dark, and the actors rush around furiously being first one person and then another. The venture -a daring on the part of the London Library – is one to catch, it could, after all, be something never to be done again.
Jonathan Harker: Bart Lambert.
Mina Harker: Sophie Greenham.
Director: Helen Tennison.
Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight.
AV Designer: Eva Auster.
Sound Designer: Matt Eaton.
Lighting Designer: Ashley Bale.
Production Photography: Richard Budd.