Writers: Le Navet Bete & John Nicholson
Director: John Nicholson
Reviewer: Karen Bussell
Classic clowning, razor-sharp timing and frenetic pace are synonymous with Devon’s much-loved Le Navet Bete and its latest offering lives up to expectations.
Directed by the current comedy director of the moment John Nicholson (Peepolykus) and designed by Phil Eddolls (Mark Bruce Company, Improbable Theatre) Dracula: The Bloody
Truth purports to tell the real story of Dracula.
Outraged by Bram Stoker’s novel portraying his diaries, research notes and letters as fiction, Professor Abraham Van Helsing MD, D.Ph, D.Litt, etc, etc of Amsterdam (Nick Bunt) is determined to put the record straight. Gathering three hapless actors (and with a bit of help from an unwitting audience member), he sets out to educate – not entertain – in how to deal with vampires and to warn of their dangers with a retelling of the bloodthirsty events of years previous. And so ensues a Gothic madcap mixture of The Play That Goes Wrong, Noises Off, Grand Guignol, Monty Python and slapstick.
Populated by some 40 characters – with frantic costume changes all part of the delight – including Jonathan Harker, Lucy Westernra (both played by Al Dunn), Doctor Seaward/C-Word, suave bat-chelor Count Dracula (Dan Bianchi) and girl-fiend Mina Murray (Matt Freeman) the action ranges from the remote castle in Transylvania by way of storm-hit cargo ship, Whitby and London to the Home Counties lunatic asylum.
Black dogs, 50 coffins filled with earth, succubae, madness, empty crypts, stakes through the heart and beheadings…it’s all here in gory detail along with alternative endings to thrill.
Eddolls’ set is simple with all the required props for a classic farce; multiple doors, rickety furniture, sticking doors, moth-eaten curtains and crumbling proscenium while trickery abounds with false mirrors, conjuring and telekinesis. Cue trips, slips and much falling over and running about.
It really is silliness unbounded with flashing lights, words that are nearly rude, Victorian parlour tricks and much cleverness and slapstick. Avid followers will get exactly what they expected and newcomers are clearly delighted to have caught the sell-out troupe at long last.
Feted as the company’s biggest production to date, in Plymouth the move to the just re-opened Athenaeum certainly allows a greater number of people to catch the almost sell-out show but perhaps something is lost in the transfer from the more intimate surroundings of the Barbican Theatre.
Runs until 15 April 2017 | Image: Matt Austin