Dracula review by Lance Bassett


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.