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Arrows and Traps Theatre present Dracula | Review

Arrows and Traps Theatre present Dracula
Arrows and Traps Theatre present Dracula

Well, it’s called Dracula, and lives up to the expectations associated with a show with a name like that. In the title role, Christopher Tester is well-costumed (as is everyone else, come to think of it), and this Dracula adopts a ‘vampire accent’, as opposed to a Romanian accent. While many aspects of the storyline are retained from the novel by Bram Stoker (1847-1912), others are altered, or otherwise kept in but with a twist. But, as I say, this is undeniably Dracula.

Those who would wish for a radical reinterpretation of the novel are therefore advised to look elsewhere – good triumphing over evil remains a theme with substantial public demand (consider, for instance, the Harry Potter series). And while the likes of Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Andrew Wickes) and Dr Jack Seward (Alex Stevens) might look slightly odd, at least through contemporary eyes, prancing around trying to repel vampires by holding out a Christian cross, the creatures are palpably affected by the doctors’ actions. This isn’t The Exorcist, though Van Helsing would appear to practise religion – he even has wafers of Holy Communion with him, used to determine whether a person is on the Good Side or the Bad Side. A visibly negative reaction to a bit of bread being given to them is all it takes to determine whether someone is possessed.

The end is kept open-ended, contrasting with the novel that ends conclusively, leaving the audience to imagine which way the story would have ended had it followed the end of the story more faithfully. One might even argue that there’s a case for a sequel or ‘reply’ to this play. Cordelia Baumann puts in a tour de force performance as Renfield, a patient in bedlam, back in the days when ‘bedlam’ really meant locking people considered by the authorities to be ‘insane’ up, for their own alleged good.

This adaptation works well overall. There’s no Quincey Morris to speak of here, for instance, but this is hardly a case of him being conspicuous by his absence. The show, for the most part, is steadily-paced, and could perhaps have benefited from a greater sense of urgency. An example: when it occurs to Van Helsing that haste is required, he speaks of the need to move quickly, but nobody goes anywhere for a while. The choreography (Roman Berry) is slick enough, given the relatively confined performance area, and as the play glides along, both the movement (Will Pinchin) and lighting (Ben Jacobs) have much to add to create a foreboding atmosphere.

For some reason, though, the production feels like a bit of a slog at times. Perhaps it was, in part, down to the inclusion of so much ‘talking heads’ in amongst all the bloodsucking. Characters would discuss what has to be done, and then set about doing it. While there is nothing inherently incorrect about that, if the show reduced the explanations and let the dramatizations speak for themselves a little more, it may have made for more riveting viewing overall.

There are moments of comic relief, which largely worked well, and a rather unexpected use of lyrics made famous by Britney Spears: “Oh, the taste of your lips / I’m on a ride / You’re toxic, I’m slippin’ under / With a taste of poison paradise”. Not quite as spooky as it could have been, but it is suitably engaging – just about.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Immortal only as long as he is able to drink the blood of the living, Count Dracula has come to London. Setting his sights on Mina Murray, he embarks on a blood-fuelled path of seduction and devastation. As Mina begins to hear the music of the night, her fiancé Jonathan Harker and Professor Van Helsing must race to defeat Dracula before it is too late.

This brand-new stage adaptation based on Bram Stoker’s monumental, genre-defining Gothic horror classic is brought to irresistible life as a spine-chilling masterpiece of fear. Eight-time Off West End Award Nominated Arrows & Traps Theatre return to the Jack this Halloween after their sold-out run of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein last year, and their critically-acclaimed recent production of The White Rose.

The Creative Team |
Playwright | Ross McGregor Director | Ross McGregor
Costume Designer | Odin Corie Set Designer | Francine Huin-Wah
Set Build | MWS Productions Movement Direction | Will Pinchin
Choreography | Roman Berry Fight Direction | Yarit Dor
Lighting Design | Ben Jacobs Sound Design | Alistair Lax
The Cast | Cornelia Baumann (Renfield), Oliver Brassell (Arthur Holmwood), Lucy Ioannou (Lucy Westenra), Conor Moss (Jonathan Harker), Alex Stevens (Jack Seward), Christopher Tester (Dracula), Beatrice Vincent (Mina Murray), Andrew Wickes (Abraham Van Helsing).

Arrows & Traps Theatre present
Dracula
by Bram Stoker
in a new adaptation by Ross McGregor
Tuesday 9 to Saturday 27 October 2018
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
Box office: www.brockleyjack.co.uk

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