30 October 2013
Dracula – Jonathan Goddard
Mina Harker – Eleanor Duval
Jonathan Harker – Christopher Tandy
Lucy Westenra – Kristin McGuire
Doctor – Wayne Parsons
Priest – Jordi Calpe Serrats
Lord – Alan Vincent
Vampire Brides – Cree Williams, Nichole Guarino, Hannah Kidd
Choreographed and directed by Mark Bruce
Set: Phil Eddols
Lighting: Guy Hoare
Costumes: Dorothee Brodruck
Holy Mary, mother of God this is scary. And even more so when watched in the atmospheric, creepy Wilton’s Music Hall. Had there been room, I would probably have peed myself on at least two occasions – but you have to be thin to sit comfortably at Wiltons, because the seats are all closely lashed together with absolutely no room between them, so I spent most of the first half sitting on one buttock and the second half bolt upright with my shoulders well forward so that the people sitting next to me could sit with their backs against the chair backs, so that the people sitting next to them could sit bolt upright with their shoulders well forward, and so on and so on down the row. This is not the level of buttock and shoulder room I expect when the seat price is enough to feed me for a week. Because of the lack of room between seats, each person in the row was overflowing onto their neighbour’s seat by about 5cm, causing serious problems towards the end of each row for anyone with broad shoulders or a large bottom or both. This was the theatrical equivalent of economy class on EasyJet. Not that most of Wilton’s patrons will know what EasyJet is – there is a seeming creeping Hoxtonisation going on, rather like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You know the sort – achingly trendy types with iPads, designer spectacle frames and nebulous jobs in the meeja. The type who can’t go anywhere without a drink first and another drink in the interval and a polystyrene carton of something ethnic to munch on during the second half, like the impossibly pompous “student of Brecht” sitting right behind me whose knowledge of Brecht was so paper-thin that I heard a lot of talk about a play called “The irresistible rise of ……someone or other” which is apparently “like, you know, about, like, Hitler, I think”.
Anyway, I digress. As I said, Holy Mary mother of God this is scary. Simply and economically told, pared down to the essence of the story (gone are the Van Helsing and Renfield sub-plots) and, to use a much over-used adjective, gothic. Its also very smoky, so take some cough sweets. And a bucket to pee into. There are some flashes of humour – the courtship of Lucy Westenra by the doctor, the priest and a lord (a wonderfully rambunctious and randy characterisation by Alan Vincent, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the music hall stage), for instance – but mostly its full on scary, and at times damned frightening; the carriage ride to Castle Dracula will stay with me for a long time, as will the rising of Lucy from her tomb. There’s just one slightly odd note – before the interval, Count Dracula goes into a slightly grotesque version of a music hall number with top hat and cane, which I didn’t understand at all and which didn’t fit with the rest of the production in any way, seemingly – it looked like Baron Samedi doing a bit of soft-shoe. The idea of having the three Vampire Brides act almost as a chorus, always observing, always present, is clever. There are some very “filmic” moments – the scene in the tavern, the carriage ride, Dracula slithering down the castle wall, the final chase through the snow –some incredibly well-designed lighting and enough genuinely scary moments to haunt the dreams of anyone with an over-active imagination for a good long time. Atmosphere is provided in buckets by a wild smorgasbord of music from Mozart to music hall (for me, hearing a recording of the original version of “Down at the old Bull and Bush” echoing through a place where that original version is highly likely to have been sung night after night was really scary). Me, I’m keeping a light on and some garlic handy, just in case.