Director: John Nicholson
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts
Exeter based theatre company Le Navet Bete and the Northcott Theatre present Dracula: The Bloody Truth; a somewhat faithful re-telling of the Bram Stoker original that sees four men play 40 characters in 100 minutes. A triumphant return to the Northcott after their sell out debut with Dick Tracy in the autumn of last year.
Set in 1900, three years after the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the show sees Professor Abraham Van Helsing’s (Nick Bunt) panicked reaction to the book being presented as fiction. Professor Van Helsing, who claims to have given Stoker all of his own research notes and diary entries for the book, has something rather alarming to tell the audience: It is all true.
From Amsterdam to Whitby, this fast-paced farce follows Professor Van Helsing and three trained actors that he has hired for the occasion as they show us what really happened with Count Dracula. All the classic characters are there; Jonathon Harker (Al Dunn), Doctor Seward (Dan Bianchi), Mina Murray (Matt Freeman) and Lucy Westernra. The production, Professor Van Helsing explains, is by no means meant for entertainment or comedy. But instead its only aim is to serve as a factual re-telling and warning of the horrific events surrounding Count Dracula.
Designed by Phil Eddolls, the set and props become as much a part of the story and excitement as the actors themselves. A huge ornate theatre arch, luxurious – if not a little worse for wear – red curtain and a gramophone set the scene as the audience come in. This gives the stage a grand, old-time feel and perfectly sets the scene for the drama that is about to unfold. From there everything becomes a little chaotic, with the ever-changing set behind the curtain having a more DIY feel to it and transforming from asylums to train stations.
The four performers give endlessly energetic performances as the 40 characters, with witty dialogue and perfect physical comedy. The jokes are big and bold and none-stop, much to the exasperation of Professor Van Helsing’s character. Among all the comedy, the character of Dracula played by Dan Blanchi still manages to hold some gravitas and an uncomfortable feeling of the uncertain. This is testament to the team’s talents, as all four performers switch effortlessly between characters.
Since the broadcast of The Play That Goes Wrong on television over the Christmas period – a production that will itself be at the Northcott Theatre in the coming months – the popularity and demand for this sort of farce theatre has been high. With Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Le Navet Bete create something unforgettable with their own polished brand of physical comedy.
Like all good family theatre, Dracula: The Bloody Truth tows the line of what is appropriate for family audiences and is all the better for it. This cheeky brand of infectious comedy is guaranteed to have the audience in stitches throughout.
Runs until 1 April 2017 | Image: Matt Austin