REVIEW: Dracula at Barnstaple's Queen's Theatre
THE name Dracula has become ingrained in the collective subconscious since the Bram Stoker’s novel was first published in 1897.
Recently, the vampire genre has drawn fresh blood in the guise of the Twilight series of books and films, but to my mind you can’t beat the Count.
Given the fact the blood-sucking, crucifix-fearing character has been recreated on the stage and screen numerous times, how to make it relevant and exciting for a 2013 audience? Leave it to Blackeyed Theatre, that’s how.
To say the five cast members were multi-talented is a huge understatement. Singing, playing instruments and all taking on more than one role, this quintet was awesome to behold. Their interaction with the climbing frame-esque set and one another was flawless. Their energy was infectious.
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Solicitor Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania to do business with enigmatic nobleman Count Dracula, and soon discovers he is prisoner in the Count’s castle.
Dracula has his eyes on England, and this is how Jonathan’s beloved Mina, her friend Lucy, and Lucy’s would-be suitor Dr John Seward become involved.
Meanwhile, Seward, who runs an asylum close to Dracula’s English home, Carfax, is fascinated by the behaviour of one of his patients, Renfield, who gobbles flies and spiders for a past-time. Could his “insanity” be something to do with Dracula?
Lucy is lost to the Count, but the other three, under the guidance of Seward’s vampire-bashing mentor Van Helsing, embark on a mission against Dracula. We are left wondering if they are successful.
Paul Kevin-Taylor is at the heart of the matter, as Dracula and Van Helsing. He embodies the former with an ethereal, sensual presence that is captivating. His Van Helsing is strong and single-minded.
Harker and Renfield are tackled in an accomplished manner by Wil corrBryant. He captures perfectly the naivete of the solicitor as he journeys across Europe towards his date with Dracula, and, in Renfield, he conveys the mind of a man driven to the brink of insanity and powerless to prevent it.
The use of well-chosen props was interesting: a newspaper passed between actors as they moved the story along by belting out the headlines (“Stop press! Stop press!”), umbrellas as carriage wheels, a piece of cardboard connoting a window in the asylum, castle or carriage.
And little touches denoting change of character – the discarding of a coat or the addition of a cravat – were subtle yet brilliantly executed.
Review: Ellen Cook
Venue: Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple