Adaptor & Writer: Jenny King from the book by Bram Stoker
Director: Eduard Lewis
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
The witching hour may have passed, but the heart of darkness lingers yet at the King’s theatre. Watcher of the night Dracula, arrives in Edinburgh in a new multi-sensory experience promising to tell the tale anew.
As the audience laugh, natter and drink a sudden burst of light silences the crowd, after some screams of course. Immediately, a sense of dread is present, this production aims to chill to the bone, something too often left out of horror-based adaptations. Technically this production reaches a five-star pinnacle. The closing of act one in particular sets a large precedent: as the count, shrouded in darkness, the fog building around him, leaps into the audience. It’s seamless. An aspect not fully explained though are the claims that it is multi-sensory. Our eyes and ears may have to work hard, but this is no different than other shows with complex technical involvement.
Free-flowing, unfolding as the story progresses, the set design of Sean Cavanagh captures the atmosphere of the original novel. The bulk of the stage is utilised, sliding columns changing our setting with but a push.
Let’s be honest, Count Dracula, the prince of Darkness himself can often be misinterpreted as a buffoon of the monster world. Such an icon, his portrayal in popular culture has recently seen less serious, let alone fear-inducing performances. Glen Fox, however, brings life to the old stiff. More than this, he sells the performance and enables others to sell theirs. When Dracula deflects an advance from Van Helsing – we feel the weight of each blow. He is agile, light on his feet yet sturdy and solid. There is a remarkable otherworldly aspect to him.
In tandem with exceptional stage management are keen illusions courtesy of Ben Hart. Performer and effects work together to ensnare the senses. Hart’s illusions lend themselves well to Dracula: especially Fox lifting Harker fully off the ground singlehanded flinging him as if he were a doll. One of the final illusions – the ‘rebirth’ of Dracula through Renfield, is a timeless conjurers trick utilised in a primaeval gothic manner.
Already drained of her vitality though is Olivia Swann as Mina Murray. Seemingly already struck down by Dracula’s advances her energy is rather low. A withdrawn character, Mina is an eloquent but introverted being. Her lusting for the count a result of his temptation to draw out her spirit. Webber fails to convey Mina’s fall from grace well, to the extent it hinders the final scene. As Mina betraying the Count seems to be causing a minor inconvenience as opposed to sealing his fate.
Fitting, that the technological advances onstage echo the themes within the text – technologies attempt to oust the foreign magic of old. As a piece of spectacle, Dracula is everything one could hope for; gory, creative and engaging. Its performances, however, fall at the wayside from time to time. For each gothic fuelled Dracula or Lucy, there is a dreary Mina. This production delivers what we long for at this time of year: indulgence, carnal delight and terror but all safety kept to the stage of course… right?
Runs until 3 November 2018 | Image: Nobby Clark