by Bram Stoker adapted by Theresa Heskins.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 28 March 2015.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 March.
Sound production of bloody story.
There are several approaches to Dracula and Theresa Heskins, in her adaptation and production, takes one of the darkest. No humour here, and no attempt to exploit one element of a story that seems to light-on its themes by chance then flit between, rather than exploring, them.
Heskins’ theatrical flair is shown in the absence of the light and dark contrast famous screen adaptations demand. Yet her production, with instinctive ingenuity, resorts to a feature of film-making, the Foley stage. Three of them, placed around the rear of the auditorium and provided with the surfaces and objects used to create everything apart from dialogue for film sound-tracks.
Along with their precision, the amplified effects created by swishing, pummelling, scraping etc, means sounds that are often soft become part of the overall stage image, even as their artificial creation is acknowledged by the visible artistry. It makes the theatrical more theatrical, while emphasising atmosphere and – the defining reason for its use here – echoing Count Dracula’s manipulation and control of events.
One purpose of Foley effects is to prevent sounds over-powering dialogue in film, and for all the ingenuity and immediacy of the production’s aural qualities, Heskins doesn’t neglect the human action. While Jack Klaff’s Dracula often whispers breathily from a Foley stage, commenting on others’ reactions and actions against him – and Klaff’s rich, tonally flexible voice is a sound-track in itself – the slow-paced dark scenes are contrasted by more brightly lit ones among the other characters. And there’s the tension of sleeping figures, vulnerable to attack on the platform-bed rising from the bare stage.
And Heskins pursues her insistence on the three-dimensionality of the New Vic stage as a trio of Brides of Dracula (as Business Manager to Victorian actor Henry Irving, Stoker had called them Weird Sisters) unravel down, or hastily scrabble up, long curtains descending from the roof.
Whether or not Stoker’s Dracula is more than a good character idea in a Gothic tradition, this adaptation intriguingly explores its potential themes, with Sarah Schoenbeck’s Mina movingly expressing the divided pull of vampire blood and human loyalties battling inside her.
Lucy: Jasmine Blackborow.
Youthful Dracuka: Jonathan Charles.
Dracula: Jack Klaff.
Brides: Hazel Lam, Sophie Morris, Rebecca Rennison.
Van Helsing: John O’Mahony.
Mina: Sarah Schoenbeck.
Jonathan Harker: Psaac Stanmore.
Dr Jack Seward: Ali Watt.
Voice of Renfield: Conrad Nelson.
Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis, Alex Day.
Composer/Musical Director: James Atherton.
Costume: Lis Evans.
Vocal coach: Caroline Hetherington.
Aerial director: Vicki Amedume.
Fight director: Marcello Marascalchi.