Dracula by Bram Stoker

Banbury Cross Players presented Dracula by Bram Stoker adapted by Jane Thornton & John Godber in July 2015. The play was performed at The Mill Arts Centre from 15th to 18th July. Directed by Linda Shaw, the Cast was as follows:

Dracula – Ian Nutt
Renfield – John McCormick
Van Helsing – Marc Griffiths
Lucy – Kate Groves
Mina – Helena Boughton
Harker – Dave Robinson
Seward – Jem Turner
Holmwood – Lee Harris

Dracula Programme
Dracula Programme

In July 2015, Banbury Cross Players will be taking you on a strange journey along the coast of England as a sudden & mysterious storm whips up. A young woman sleepwalks along the edge of the sea cliff and in the teeth of the gale, a ship crashes through the harbour entrance abandoned except for an immense dog and fifty boxes of grave dust. Count Dracula has arrived.

Immortal only as long as he is able to drink the blood of the living he pursues his victims with brutally devastating effect. The race to end Dracula’s power is on .. if only there is still time.

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Dracula Programme
Reviews:
Lance Bassett – Oxford Mail
Alex Wood – Sardines Magazine

These photos are with thanks to and copyright of Mike Watling.

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Dracula review by Lance Bassett

Dracula review by Lance Bassett – Oxford Mail
Banbury Cross Players
The Mill, Banbury, 15th July 2015

Banbury Cross Players chose Bram Stoker’s epic ‘Dracula’ for their final offering of the 2015 season. Adapted by Jane Thornton and John Godber this tale of Vampire Bats, Transylvanian Counts, coffins and lunatic asylums was just the thing for a grey summer’s night in July.

The stage was a simple innovative set consisting of four separate panels each decorated to represent different areas involved in the plot.

We start with solicitor Jonathan Harker (Dave Robinson) departing these shores for his new employment in faraway Transylvania, working for the mysterious Count Dracula. Mr Robinson was a brave man to take on this huge demanding part that consisted of frequent lengthy monologues. Full credit to him and all the cast who didn’t seem to struggle with any of their lines on this the first night of the run.

Jonathan gets to meet the eerie Count, portrayed with gusto by Ian Nutt. I understand Ian took on this part at a late hour, though you wouldn’t know it from his polished performance, including the Germanic accent.

Throughout the play there were background voices interjecting the dialogue, some worked and some didn’t. Where the chorus kept repeating the words, ‘The dead travel fast’, it would have worked better for me if one single voice had whispered the line.

So, Jonathan is ensconced in his new job sorting out the Count’s library when he cuts himself shaving and Dracula supposedly gets all excited at the sight of the blood. Unfortunately there wasn’t any, an oversight there methinks as the whole play revolves around the red stuff.

OK, so the Count leaves on a trip to England where Jonathan’s love interest Mina, convincingly played by Helena Broughton, awaits along with her friend Lucy again ably portrayed by Kate Groves. Lucy is unaware that she is a target of the dastardly Count who is after her corpuscles.

It must be mentioned here that Kate played such a myriad of parts in the play it’s a wonder she could remember which lines went with which role.

Jonathan returns to England to the arms of Mina and teams up with Dr Seward (Jem Turner) to find the Count. Mina also features in the ambitions of Mr Dracula. More anon.

In the production there is the part of Renfield played again with much enthusiasm by the very able John McCormick. Renfield is in an asylum overseen by Dr Seward and is prone to ranting about flies, spiders and wanting a cat, interspersed with moments of sanity. I have no idea what his character had to do with the plot and for this I apologise.

The main plot continues apace especially when Dr Seward calls in Marc Griffiths as Professor Van Helsing. Lucy had been bitten by the Count, drained of her lifeblood and wasn’t long for this world, despite the not inconsiderate efforts of the Professor. One could not help for sorry for Lucy’s young fiancé Arthur (Lee Harris) losing the love of his life like this.

Lucy’s coffin scene was excellent as she joined the ranks of the undead briefly before Van Helsing set about her with his wooden stake and hacksaw.

Mina was now the main target of Dracula and Van Helsing led his followers in a nationwide search for the Count and the boxes he needs to rest in to survive. Van Helsing filled the stage, looked and sounded just the part. A big authoritative man with his voice carrying well. If he doesn’t always speak with that accent, he fooled me.

Remember Renfield? It would appear he is now almost sane and falls on his face, breaks his back and has a death scene reminiscent of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. I for one reckon he wasn’t in the right play.

Dracula has now returned to the continent pursued by the Van Helsing posse. They track him down but not before he has a swift dalliance with the lovely Mina but rescued just in time by our heroes.

Cornered outside his castle, the Count faces Van Helsing and is despatched by a silver bullet from the Professor’s gun.

To be honest there were a few blips in this production. The lighting plot erred a tad in places, there were a couple of speeches made upstage, always dodgy, and it was a pity the candles on the set weren’t lit for ambience (flickering bulbs of course). However Director Linda Shaw should be happy with the reaction from the first night audience with a respectful ovation at the curtain call

It was a valiant effort on behalf of BCP. The acting as usual was beyond reproach and convincing to the point I did keep a look out for bats on the long drive home.

Lance Bassett.


 

Dracula Review by Alex Wood

Dracula, BCP, 15th July 2015
Director; Linda Shaw

I approached this production with some trepidation. With no particular interest in the supernatural or fantasy I genuinely wondered if there would be much to like about this production.

Bearing this reservation in mind I was very impressed by this adaptation by Jane Thornton and John Godber. Both the writers are very closely associated with the Hull Truck Theatre Company and the sharp and witty style used so well by this much-respected group was clearly evidenced in their approach to their subject. Scenes were short with quick changes and there was very little spare about the way the play was written – just the approach needed if this play is to be presented on stage, where its visual aspect and impact will be very different to the film versions to which people are probably more accustomed.

A slightly surprising feature of the play is that some of its themes – a fear of aliens, the terror of a menace we find difficult to control and, of course, matters of life and death – are very much up-to-date.
That said, the play calls for good acting if it is to work. The characterisations portrayed by the writers are strong but must be brought to life on stage. (Apologies – no pun intended). Linda Shaw picked a strong cast for this show – and directed it well.

Dave Robinson played Jonathan Harker, an innocent agent who plays a key role at the start of the play especially, setting the scene first by his curiosity, then his misgivings and eventually his fear when he realises that the Count is not of this world, drawing the audience very effectively into his increasingly dreadful predicament.

Playing the character of Renfield, the lunatic who believes that by contriving to set up a bizarre food chain of death, feeding flies to spiders that he then feeds to birds and then – if only his doctor would let him have one – to a cat, he will somehow increase his own life, was played with total conviction by John McCormick, who kept a nice balance between crazy, cunning and clever.

Jem Turner played the multifaceted role of Dr John Seward – head of the asylum, friend to a man whose fiancée is in danger to succumbing to the vampire, collaborator with the vampire-hunter van Helsing – with great skill.

Professor van Helsing is a man on a single-minded mission to at least control if not eradicate the menace of vampirism; slightly distracted by vast the scale of his crusade, but totally dedicated to saving individuals in spite of the dangers to himself. I thought Marc Griffiths got him just right.

Mina Murray, Harker’s wife, who almost succumbs to the vampire, was played with great sensitivity by Helena Boughton and Kate Groves did an excellent job in her multiple roles, which included the vampire’s victim, Lucy, Lee Harris providing good support as her concerned and caring fiancée Arthur.

Ian Nutt played Dracula. Not at all like the lowering, dark, large figure of Christopher Lee, Ian, fairly slight and (I hope he doesn’t mind me describing him like this) rather baby faced, used his considerable acting talent (and some subtle but very effective make-up) to present us with a truly menacing figure – excellent.
Supporting this was a clever set, lighting and a fine choice of period costumes. The offstage voices (‘The dead travel fast’ – a chilling chorus) added to the atmosphere and the whole was complemented extremely well by excerpts from a piece called Voices of Light by Richard Einhorn.
Well done Banbury Cross Players!

Alex Wood – Sardines Magazine