By Charlene Li
In Dracula the audience may encounter a series of contradictions. The production is somehow both contemporary and fresh, yet at the same time unmistakably authentic to Bram Stoker’s iconic novel from which it has been lovingly adapted. The characters and motifs are familiar – even if you haven’t read the novel or seen the film adaptations, the myriad pop culture iterations are hard to miss – yet they are presented in a way that makes you feel as if you’re seeing them for the first time. The classic struggle between good and evil, innocence and sin, also remains. All of this makes for a thrilling piece of theatre, as substantial as it is stylish.
“…CONTEMPORARY AND FRESH, YET UNMISTAKABLY AUTHENTIC TO BRAM STOKER’S ICONIC NOVEL”
The theatre opens in pitch black, with the narration of a harried Jonathan Harker beginning to reflect back on the unfortunate business trip that led him to Count Dracula’s lair. We are then taken to the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, where this young solicitor, sent to oversee real estate transactions, arrives at the grand and ominous residence of his client late at night.
The scenes then transition back and forth between Count Dracula’s Castle in the Transylvanian wilderness where all that is sinister flourish and fester, and the more orderly and sedate scenes in Victorian London where Mina, Harker’s fiancée, pensively awaits his return. In London, we also meet Lucy, Mina’s spirited and flighty friend, Jack Seward, Lucy’s spurned exfiancée and a rational psychiatrist sceptical of all that is superstitious and fanciful along with Van Helsing, Seward’s mentor with an unlikely history. Comic relief comes in the form of Renfield, Seward’s patient whose cartoonish antics conceal a portent of things to come.
This is a visually striking production with a sense of film-like grandness, which is another contradiction given the set design is economical. There isn’t much in the way of special effects such as the film projections used in some of their [shake and stir theatre company] previous productions. What’s used is used well, with each of the elements tying together organically; from lighting, to costumes, to sound design.
“THIS IS A VISUALLY STRIKING PRODUCTION WITH A SENSE OF FILM-LIKE GRANDNESS”
The staple of the production is the acting; it is of such a high quality that it would be engaging on its own, even without the visual elements. The actors embody their characters in every sense of the word, with a fair amount of impressive physical theatre among the dialogue. The ensemble cast work together with the cohesiveness of a single unit, orchestrating moments of suspense, terror, and comic relief with equal skill. The stand-out performance is not surprisingly from Nick Skubij, who plays the titular role of Count Dracula with a maturity and stage presence befitting someone centuries older, and who was, at times, genuinely terrifying.
As their name suggests, shake & stir aim to create innovative, provocative theatre, the majority of which so far have been literary adaptations that present familiar plot lines in a new light. It’s also worth noting that they are educators, with a robust in-school touring program and a Shakespeare festival for teenagers to add to their collection of hats.
In going to see Dracula, audiences can expect to be entertained, viscerally engaged, and if previous standing ovations are any indication, you will leave the theatre elated and with a newfound or rekindled obsession with the original Dracula.
Originally published on Arts Hub
A shake & stir theatre co and QPAC Production
By Bram Stoker
The gothic horror story of Dracula swoops the country in a gripping, critically-acclaimed production. When young lawyer Jonathan Harker visits Castle Dracula deep within the Carpathian mountains, he’s not expecting the strange hospitality he receives from his mysterious host. Alone and trapped within the castle walls, Jonathan discovers that Dracula wants more than his presence at the dinner table – he might also be the main course. Leaving Jonathan for dead and his castle behind, Dracula travels to London on a quest for seduction, true love and above all – blood.
From the company behind the multi award-winning, national touring productions of 1984 and Animal Farm comes this new adaptation of Stoker’s twisted tale.
Dates & Times:
Saturday 1 April at 8pm
Sunday 2 April at 5pm