Writer: Andrew McPherson (based on the novel by Bram Stoker)
Director: Simon Harvey
Reviewer: Stephen M Hornby
The red lights that bathe the Council Chamber studio dim to near darkness. There is the sound of footsteps and the last minute rustling of the audience stills. Someone is in the room moving very slowly from behind the audience to the stage area, or maybe it’s more something, as a white bald head atop a long, black frock coat become discernable as it takes to the stage. Dracula opens with high Gothic chills, then immediately pokes fun at itself as a black bat cut-out on a stick flies past. The tone is set for the evening.
Dracula is a familiar tale. Even if you don’t know Stoker’s novel, you’ll know Christopher Lee as Dracula, or Gary Oldman as Dracula or countless other film, novel and graphic novel versions, variations, prequels, sequels, adaptations and appropriations of the most famous vampire story ever told. So, there’s quite a challenge when approaching the text, as any intelligent adaptation must deal not only with the source material from Stoker, but also with the multitude of other images and associations and muddles of plots that are conjured in everyone’s mind by the title.
Andrew McPherson pulls it off admirably. He strips out characters, conflates others and streamlines the narrative in plausible ways that help speed the story along. The chosen form of representation, a one-man show, may also be a prime driver here to keeping to a manageable number of people in any one scene. McPherson pushes this as far as it will go, but never creates confusion, which is a considerable achievement. As we move through the story, his adaptation begins to move away from the novel narratively, but its inventions never feel out of place.
David Mynne is Dracula, as well as everybody else. It’s a great performance from a master story-teller who can really captivate an audience. Each characterisation is precisely marked and executed. The miming of props and movement through locations is always clear and fluid – praise here to Simon Harvey’s direction – and Mynne verbalises a whole raft of sound effects from staking vampires, to raging storms to doors creaking open. The use of puppets and finger puppetry is successful, chilling one moment and comic the next. He may have lost a little energy at points and perhaps some of the humour wasn’t as sharp as it could’ve been, but his gnarled handed, strangely spoken Dracula is as good as any.
The best compliment you can pay to this one man performance of Dracula is that it never feels like a one man show. The whole story is here, delightfully played, with a few welcome twists along the way and a newly crafted haunting ending that fits perfectly.
Tour runs until 30 April 2016 | Image: Contributed