Pros: Cornelia Baumann’s performance as Renfield.
Cons: The plot relies heavily on the audience having prior knowledge of the plot.
Venturing on a theatrical adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a slippery road that challenges a production team to highlight elements of originality within a plot that many are well-acquainted with. The countless stage versions of this British literary staple fluctuate between creative genius and creative flop, but always provide a good subject of conversation on the way home from the theatre. If anything, for the noticeable similarities or discrepancies with respects to their big-screen cousins.
In this Arrows & Traps production, writer and director Ross McGregor confers to the story a comedic twist, which doesn’t always feel intentional but succeeds in keeping the audience focused. Described on the billboard as “a spine-chilling masterpiece of fear”, this revisited classic bubbles with quickfire action and fine-tuned comedy, thanks to McGregor’s feisty direction. Whether intended or not, this is certainly the stroke of genius in this adaptation, whose bare-bones dramatisation relies heavily on the audience’s prior knowledge of characters and facts.
The epistolary form is only partially preserved and some accessory characters neglected to make space for the main events. Definitely an ensemble piece, the story doesn’t revolve around Dracula (Christopher Tester), nor around any of his favourite victims. Jonathan Harker’s (Conor Moss) stay at the count’s castle is briefly outlined with a string of vignettes, eventually overlaying with Mina Murray (Beatrice Vincent) and Lucy Westenra’s (Lucy Ioannou) conversations on the opposite side of the stage.
During these exchanges, light and darkness guide the spectators’ attention towards the most relevant scene, with Francine Huin-Wah’s two-levelled set providing a suitably bleak backdrop. Under Ben Jacobs’ eerie lighting, scant stone walls adapt to different scenarios and narrow arches serve as passageways or reveal pieces of furniture.
Cornelia Baumann, in the role of asylum patient Renfield, is the absolute star of this show, impeccably styled – as well as the rest of the cast – by Odin Corie. Portraying what in the original version is a male character, Baumann is the cornerstone of this production, delivering a performance that genuinely sends chills down the spine.
A bit disjointed at times, drenched in fake blood and perhaps not as gripping as other interpretations, this is an equally solid and undoubtedly deserving vampiric variation. Its merits a tasty blend of gore and comedy, seasoned with the rather unexpected presence of Britney Spears’s Toxic as a soundtrack headliner.
Original Author: Bram Stoker
Adapted and Directed By: Ross McGregor
Producer: Arrows & Traps Theatre
Booking Until: 27 October 2018
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/london/the-jack-studio-theatre/dracula