Dracula Review

Darlington Hippodrome – until 10 November 2018

3***

The Touring Consortium Theatre Company return to Darlington with their version Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Adapted by Jenny King, it’s pretty faithful to the book. However the changes that have been made make for an interesting interpretation.

The staging of the show is magnificent, the multiple uses of black gothic pillars to make a station, a castle, a bedroom and an asylum is inspired.  Sean Cavanagh’s set design with Ben Cracknell’s lighting, Paul Ewings music and sound and Ben Harts illusions all help to build the atmosphere within the auditorium.  And as the show begins with a loud bang, a flash of light and a body being feasted on you feel that this going to be a very intense performance.

But horror is subjective, done well you should be on the edge of your seat and thinking about the show for days afterwards, done badly and you leave the theatre feeling cheated.  This version of Dracula is stuck in the middle. The bits that were good were superb, but some parts were harder to appreciate than others.

The ladies of the cast were the much stronger performers.  Jessica Webber as Lucy was hypnotising to watch, her movements almost ballet like as she writhed around falling under Dracula’s spell.  Cheryl Campbell’s Lady Renfield, makes for an interesting idea that Renfield is now a woman. Campbell is gloriously insane in her sanity, relishing the eating of flies, spiders and a mouse.  Olivia Swann as Mina is very powerful in her portrayal, her final scenes are intense. The Vixens – Charlotte Gosling, Marina Stoimenova, Ellen Verenieks – like Lucy, have fluidity in their movement.  Gosling shines in her scene as the maid, baring her teeth in a comedic fashion.

Glen Fox’s Dracula, Andrew Horton’s Jonathan Harker, Evan Milton’s Dr Seward and Philip Bretherton’s Van Helsing are less dimensional characters than the females.  Maybe this is because Jenny King wrote strong female characters but the males all seem to have been looked over. Why, for example, did Van Helsing drink from a hip flask?  Was it a crafty nip of something or was it holy water to protect him?

The traditional storytelling is well acted but however good the acting, it fails to match the magnificence of the atmospheric staging.  Nonetheless, this is still a show worth seeing and you may be happily terrified.

In Darlington until Saturday and on tour around the UK

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