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