Few of us can approach any rendering of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula without preconceived ideas or received imagery. The world of moving pictures has put paid to that. So for Aine King to have created a Dracula of such inventive power is a triumph.
Taking the story and relating through the inmates of the Stoneyfield Asylum allows our imaginations to have full rein. And above all, dispensing with the use of stage blood made the whole thing more sinister and affecting.
David Whiting played both Renfield and Dracula with great skill. Renfield is truly disturbed and disturbing, a portrait of a man’s mind utterly destroyed. His Dracula is dark, a creature of few words and all of them chilling even when he is seducing the women.
Alexander Barnes played Jonathan Harker with great skill, his innocence gradually worn away and the fear in his eyes utterly tangible.
King’s script is concise and sharp; she moved the story on with pace and directed it with equal energy, never letting the mood drop, keeping her cast and the audience on their toes at all times.
Punctuating the piece with beautifully sung English folk songs worked brilliantly. By beautifully I don’t mean prettily – far from it – the words of those songs were often bitter and harsh. They added a chilling note to the entire work, without for a moment making it feel like an attempt to make this a musical or even a show with music.
The women strangely came to life once they were dead and their performances as the undead wraiths was hideously scary. They wailed with a combination of blood lust and sexual lust, their eyes fired and their mouths lascivious. They were, at that moment, more terrifying than Dracula himself.
Toby Dale and Katrina Marchant controlled the asylum with a hard hand. It was a reign of terror with a cynical lack of concern for their inmates and in a way they appeared more cruel than Dracula, who is, after all, a victim himself.
The setting was good: dressing the basement of Latest Musicbar in dirty sheets worked well, as did the filthy costumes on the whole. Van Helsing’s costume was perhaps overworked and detracted from Greg Page’s playing of the part, which was otherwise excellent.
My only quibble with the entire production was that after so much fine attention given to the script and direction and costumes and set, it should be so disappointingly bland in its lighting. There appeared to be one constant and very flat state with no discernible changes. I can see that dispensing with the usual trappings of stage blood possibly inspired a lighting plan that avoided theatrical horror effects, but the result was simply dull.
Other than that, this was an evening of well managed and disturbing horror that avoided clichés.
Otherplace Productions at Latest Musicbar, 1 November