Review from 1st Year student, Danny Collard
Theresa Heskins’ production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was, undoubtedly, one of the more inventive adaptations of this well told tale. Performed at the New Vic Theatre in Stoke ‘in the round’, each audience member left with plenty to discuss on the journey home, regardless of their enjoyment of the show.
The performance stayed remarkably true to the original plot, and it may be said that many of the issues taken (for those that took them) came from its adherence to Stoker’s work, which, especially with age, has now become somewhat transparent and a little melodramatic. The fallout was tense moments that, through melodrama, became rather comical and evaporated the atmosphere of the room, which in every other respect was enticing.
The cast were magnificent: Jasmine Blackborow made an excellent Lucy Westenra; Jonathan Charles, though he had few lines, played an energetic, young Dracula. The standout issue with the cast was John O’Mahoney’s struggle to shake off his Irish accent to play the Dutch Dr.Van Helsing, though once this is overlooked, his version of the vampire hunter was unique.
More standout than the cast, or even the script itself, was the use of space and sound to create the ultimate gothic stage. Throughout the play, the cast offstage used Foley techniques (the use of ordinary objects to create sound effects, probably used most frequently in early film-making) in full view of the audience. It was a real treat to be able to watch the closing of a book into a microphone creating the most realistic heartbeat. Somehow, instead of being a breaking the spell, as one might expect, these effects intensified the experience. Most memorable was the use of a squelching orange as the fangs of the vampires pressed into the skin of their victims.
Perhaps the most ingenious innovation, and what audiences will remember most vividly, were the magnificent wives of Dracula, who are seen descending from behind the audience with drapes that hang from the rafters, to entrance poor Jonathan Harker with a beautifully choreographed, mid-air dance routine. It was a theme throughout that deceptively simple techniques, well used, create a surreal, deep and hypnotic atmosphere. It’s then down to the audience member to tolerate the script and the melodrama in order to be induced by the beauty of the presentation.
Regardless of how many times you’ve seen it before, and of any low tolerances for cheesy scripts (with which I tend to struggle myself), I guarantee that should the opportunity arise for any theatre lover to see this performance, on the strength of the innovative techniques alone, this is worth a watch.
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