Dracula – Theatre With Bite!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
In the same way that it is a brave actor that tackles Hamlet – certain members of the audience know every line by heart – so it is an equally brave company that meets the challenge of turning one of the world’s greatest Gothic novels, Dracula, into a stage play.
Everyone in the audience has a view – coloured by decades of cinematic revelation - and one slight deviation from their expectations runs the risk of public alienation.
But I have to say that Jenny King’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic was, overall, excellent with more shock moments than Spielberg’s movie Jaws, and a dark, brooding backdrop that could easily have been borrowed by the producers of The Woman in Black!
Interestingly King chose to make Dracula’s would-be mouse eating servant, RM Renfield, a woman, re-packaged as Lady Renfield but, for me, that was the one aspect of the play that didn’t work, especially when you compare it to the amazing performance by Tom Waits in the 1992 movie featuring Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman in the title role.
Cheryl Campbell was word perfect and, whilst appreciating her performance, I cannot necessarily say that I enjoyed her overy light-hearted interpretation of Stoker’s character, described in the novel as a ‘possibly dangerous man’. She didn’t feel dangerous at all, just an affectionate, line-perfect fruit cake!
There were a couple of character absences, including, for example Texan vampire killer, Quincey Morris, however, I totally get why. Jenny King had to concertina a long, complex novel into something workable and I believe she achieved that.
Jessica Webber as Lucy, the innocent turned into a sexually overt, blood-sucker, by Count Dracula, was one of the most natural actors on the stage whilst, Philip Bretherton as Professor Van Helsing, with his staccato, quasi European accent, was a little melodramatic, if enjoyable, a trait echoed by his side kick Evan Milton as Doctor Seward.
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The backdrop is suitably eerie and Glen Fox as Count Dracula iss great. He was better looking than pale-faced Oldman in the movie, but within a short time, you don’t see a good looking man so much as a character to be avoided on the backstreets of Bradford as you walk back to your car!
Stoker’s novel is made up of a series of character diaries and making chronological sense of these is the real challenge for an adapter like Jenny King but, as much as I applaud the stage players, I must also pay tribute to King for producing a workable, excellent production that stays largely true to Stoker’s original, with just enough variation to keep everything flowing better than a pint of the red stuff being enjoyed by a certain member of the cast. To be recommended!
at Bradford Alhambra
Dracula – Theatre With Bite!, 28th November 2018, 16:59 PM