Writer: Bram Stoker
Adaptor: Liz Lochhead
Director: Mary Papadima
Reviewer: Hannah Piercy
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: the classic vampire novel, complete with stakes, garlic, moonlight, wolves, lonely castles and innocent women. But this production is never in danger of drowning in pantomime fear and overwrought tension. Liz Lochhead’s adaptation instead cleverly laughs at itself, double meanings (“the neighbours are a bit batty”) providing a tension-diffusing humour which makes the audience feel in on the joke, and all the more accepting of the story’s supernatural terrors.
From the occasional line poking fun at itself, to the witty dialogue between Florrie (Katie Norris), Mina (Cate Cammack) and Lucy (Jennifer English), humour is counterbalanced perfectly against tension and fear. Never in danger of becoming the pantomime villain, Matthew Vaughan’s Dracula is a joy to watch; a man of wit in conversation, who is never far from provoking terror.
The actors are unfailingly superb, sculpting every movement to the utmost precision. The fitful motions of those possessed by vampires are surprisingly convincing, perhaps because the production has already established its powerful ability to create terror through even the simplest of gestures. Vaughan’s outstretched fingers twist in circles which hypnotise not only Henry Devas’s likeable Jonathan Harker, but an enrapt audience.
The production is at its weakest when weighed down with narrative monologues, but supporting actors like Katie Hayes (as Nurse Nisbett) are engaging enough to carry these off. The large cuts to Stoker’s novel are clearly necessary, and overall the adaptation is admirable, especially for the way it intersects the action at the lunatic asylum with scenes in Whitby and Transylvania. One especially striking moment occurs when Mina, Renfield (Liam Smith) and Jonathan appear onstage together in a montage of scenes from different locations. Dressed in white, they represent striking instances of real human fear and frailty.
Red lighting and red roses offset white veils and bridal dresses, while the actors’ positioning onstage is ingeniously planned from the beginning. Lucy suspended on a swing is mirrored in the sight of the lunatic Renfield dangling upside down in a cage. Martin Johns’s set, simple at first sight, switches easily from the Gothic splendour of Dracula’s castle to the lonely bedchambers of Lucy in Whitby, the same props carried on by Dracula and Florrie to cleverly draw together the two scenarios. Projections designed by Andrew J Lindsay are cast onto the back wall, Dracula’s shadow hovers menacingly in the background: visually stunning, the production is a feast for the eyes and ears. Dan Steele’s hauntingly beautiful music, a spectacular visual concept, and pitch-perfect performances throughout the cast make this a spine-tingling show not to be missed.
Runs until Friday 7th November