Writer: Bram Stoker
Director and Choreographer: Mark Bruce
Reviewer: Madelaine Bowman
Adapted from Bram Stoker’s horror novel of the same name, Mark Bruce’s Dracula is a superbly Gothic piece of dance theatre, performed with utmost fluidity and technical skill.
The most famous vampire stories in the world, Dracula is a tale of forbidden love and sexual desire, originally told in Stoker’s 1897 novel through confessional diary entries and letters exchanged between protagonists. Conceived with immense creative vision, the first act of Mark Bruce’s production begins with a mesmeric opening sequence, in which Dracula (Jonathan Goddard), accompanied by a pack of wild and ravenous wolves, preys upon a peasant woman and steals her new-born baby to feed to his coven. In this scene, Goddard performs with such physical mastery and charisma as to immediately transfix the audience and draw them entirely into the dark and mysterious world of the vampire.
Following Goddard’s powerful opening is the scene in which Mina (Eleanor Duval) and Jonathan (Wayne Parsons) are first introduced to the narrative. An intentionally self-conscious performance at this point successfully portrays the dull and sexless nature of Jonathan and Mina’s partnership, thus adding weight to Duval’s erotically-charged dance with Goddard in act two, in the scene in which Mina first encounters the Count.
A highlight of the performance is the scene in which Lucy (Kristin McGuire) is seduced and immortalised by Dracula, who journeys to London from Transylvania in search of human flesh. McGuire and Goddard’s performance is technically flawless and visually impressive, depicting with high energy and striking eroticism the stages of Lucy’s violent transition from coquettish bride-to-be to bloodthirsty vampire.
Also worthy of praise is the combined effort of Nicole Guarino, Grace Jabbari and Hannah Kidd, Dracula’s three vampire brides, whose intermittent giggles and cheeky winks to the audience contribute a refreshing hint of humour to this otherwise supremely dark and menacing tale.
Phil Eddolls’ minimal set design works extremely well as the backdrop to each scene, and is rendered sufficiently spooky with Guy Hoare’s dramatic lighting, which succeeds in creating and maintaining a dark and foreboding atmosphere throughout. Bringing the whole performance together is Mark Bruce’s musical score, which is intensely spine chilling in parts. Particularly good is Bruce’s own theme music, which is hauntingly beautiful and subtly Eastern European in style. Enchanting as Bruce’s music predominantly is, it does not always successfully reflect the action of the narrative. Where Bruce’s score seems not to work is the final scene in which Mina engages in one last dance with the Count before his ultimate death, which occurs, as expected, with the rising of the sun. The chosen music for the scene pertains to a jovial Irish folk style, as does Duval and Goddard’s dance in some parts, which seems misplaced given the sad and grisly ending.
Nonetheless, Mark Bruce’s dance adaptation is a spectacular piece of visual artistry, which offers a nuanced interpretation of Stoker’s classic horror novel and is certainly well-deserving of high praise.
Reviewed on 1st October 2014