Promised as a ‘multi-sensory trip of terror’, Dracula at the Everyman was more like a ‘strobe-lit comical farce with a few shocks and surprises.’
It all started off so well, a terrifying start led into the evocative setting of a train station that was choreographed beautifully. The settings and movement continued to be smooth throughout the play and the element of dance was excellent and eerie.
However, the acting was generally a bit ropey and even comical at times. Unfortunately, a technical issue caused the play to pause and affected the tension. I think this probably caused some disruption to the actors but some performances were better than others. Glen Fox as Dracula was both alluring and horrifying as the famous vampire. But it felt like his passionate ‘bite’ scenes were too rushed and not enough tension was created.
The character of Lady Renfield played by Cheryl Campbell – an adaptation of the delusional Renfield in the novel, wasn’t complex enough and too comical at times. I felt that Campbell would have been better suited to playing Mrs Birling in the sold out An Inspector Calls next week.
There were some surprising ‘multi-sensory’ moments but I’m pretty sure there is a formula for horror – The Woman in Black nails it. Perhaps there wasn’t enough build-up of tension but there were just never those moments of pure fear that were promised.
Dracula is a Gothic story written in 1897 and the underlying metaphor is that there is wildness in all human hearts waiting to be released. I didn’t feel a deep connection with any of that. There were a few flashes of insight from Dr Van Helsing, ‘Science wants to explain everything, but not everything can be explained.’
Yes, there were innocent maidens, Gothic castles and the threat of evil but I wanted a more striking contrast between the ancient Transylvania and the modern age. I wanted more of what the novel explores: the ‘perverse duality’ of humanity – with Dr Seward representing the nice guy and Dracula the bad guy. The vampire reflects so much of what society fears: in the 19th century it was immigration, sexual promiscuity and moral degeneration. Perhaps we’re all too ‘desensitised’ now to feel frightened by a ‘multi-sensory’ performance. Or perhaps theatre companies should stick to the old rules.
It was more like the Rocky Horror Show at times with Goths in the audience and the theatrical snarling of the vampires..I just thought it was all a bit silly.