“...my testicles are tingling”
For reasons, probably best lost in the mists of time, I spent one very happy summer in the ‘90s with Peter Ustinov. I don’t think it at all fanciful to mention Ross McGregor, the adapter and director of this masterful production of Dracula, in the same breath as the latter. Both have a superb grasp of linguistics. Both have an enormous facility with humour and both understand the vagaries of the human heart.
Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897. Since then it has become exponentially popular. The Universal film company gave us Dracula’s daughter’, amongst many others. Hammer Films came up with ‘The Brides of Dracula’ and ‘Dracula has risen from the Grave’ and introduced us to the actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. And of course who can forget the recent version entitled ‘Dracula’s Dog’? In total there have been more than two hundred adaptations involving Count Dracula.
Count Dracula can only remain immortal if he is able to drink the blood of the living. He embarks on a journey from his castle in Transylvania to London. There he gets his teeth into firstly Lucy Westenra and then Mina Murray. Mina’s fiancé, Jonathan Harker, ably assisted by Professor Van Helsing, race to avert Dracula’s most overt intentions.
In a way you would have expected McGregor to handle the big set pieces superbly - and he does so. Where he scores so heavily is in his attention to the tiniest details.
There is a most marvelously intimate scene in a Whitby graveyard with Lucy and Mina (superb performances from Lucy Ioannou and Beatrice Vincent). For a moment in time everything is domesticated and ordinary but not for a moment is the tension of the piece lost. There is striking humour, playfulness and a sense ‘of the open road’. Yet we are only too aware of the fact that Count Dracula is on his way.
The acting throughout the company is top notch. It seems very harsh of me to highlight any one performance. Cornelia Baumann is terrific as Renfield. She moves gracefully from arch comedy to demonic possession. (I remember her being terribly assured as Olivia in Arrows and Traps ‘Twelfth Night’.) Conor Moss gives us a terrific turn as Jonathan Harker. He has that wonderful ability of being able to do humour and horror virtually at the same time. Yet it is to Christopher Tester as Count Dracula that must take the acting honours. This is a very fine performance. His voice and intonation pitch perfect. His movement graceful, fluid and threatening. He deserves every piece of praise he will undoubtedly get.
The movement and choreography (I’m not sure who to credit here of Roman Berry and Will Pinchin) is delicious. McGregor is enormously lucky to have them both.
The lighting design of Ben Jacobs is without reproach. His work-as I have observed in the past- is scintillating. Likewise the soundscape of Alistair Lax is a joy. What he does is never intrusive but adds constantly and enormously to the action.
My only criticism is the pieces length. I would have taken out fifteen minutes and I don’t think it would have lessened the production. Having said that the length of a play was a criticism leveled at Trevor Nunn and he hasn’t had a bad career.
All in all a wonderful night in the theatre. I urge you to see this production. And if Ross McGregor isn’t running one of the big theatrical venues in the next ten years then there really is no justice in the theatrical firmament.
Photographer credit is Davor Tovarlaza @ the Ocular Creative
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
9-27 October 7.30pm
Box office: www.brockleyjack.co.uk or 0333 666 3366
Tickets: £16, £13 conc.
(This production contains violence, horror and scenes of a sexual nature. 16+)
Company website: https://www.arrowsandtraps.com/
Reviewer Richard Braine is actor, director and playwright.
As an Actor he has worked extensively throughout the country including Chichester Festival Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange, Birmingham Rep, and Stephen Joseph Theatre in Yorkshire. His Television and Film credits include: “Calendar Girls”, “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies”, “Finding Neverland”, “Bridget Jones”, “Suspicions of Mr Whicher”, “Mr Selfridge” and many years ago Gussie Fink-Nottle in “Jeeves and Wooster”. He has also filmed over 150 Commercials all over the world.
He has directed the European premiere of Sternheim/Martin “The Underpants” at The Old Red Lion Theatre and written three plays: “Being There with Sellers”, “Bedding Clay Jones” and “Sexing Alan Titchmarsh”.