The Touring Theatre Consortium is back with Cheltenham Everyman to bring us another classic tale to life in front of our eyes. I have always loved their productions and had high hopes but this seem to fall a little flat. I still enjoyed it but it didn’t quite sparkle like some of their previous productions.
This may be one of the first reviews in which I have struggled to put my finger on exactly how I feel. I didn’t leave feeling the normal exhilaration after seeing a show and I certainly wasn’t looking over my shoulder for thin pale men in black cloaks. But I can’t quite work out why it didn’t do it for me. Hopefully writing out my thoughts will help pinpoint my cause of disappointment.
Now, I can’t pretend to be an expert on the story of Dracula. But let’s be real, how many of us actually know the STORY of Dracula; not just that it’s about a vampire from Transylvania that bites necks and hates onions, stakes and daylight. I, for one, am ashamed (but probably not alone) in saying I haven’t the foggiest…
I hear the story is relatively long and slow. The play was fairly fast paced but I still found myself unengaged at points. Perhaps due to the story in itself, and because it is difficult to translate it directly onto the stage. Maybe it was the dry and dull dialogue, because the characters were having to constantly explain events and the plot. This burden lay with the characters rather than letting the rest of the elements tell the story, restricting the characters and meaning you didn’t really have time to get to know them.
The exception amongst this was the character of Lucy who was excellently played by Jessica Webber. Her creepy, possessed expressions were haunting and she stood out as the strongest member in the cast. She switched between innocent young Lucy to the sexually liberated version as she was taken over by the Count.
Mina, as a character I found a little forced and stunted. Either this is part of her formal and reserved character or it was a dislike of Olivia Swann’s acting – but nevertheless it put up a wall between me and this character, leaving me feeling disconnected from her.
Count Dracula wasn’t as scary as I would have liked, despite lots of visual and audio effects as well as clever lighting to aid his supernatural feel. His corny one-liners referencing typical vampire gimmicks undermined the fact that the play was first and foremost trying to be scary. I don’t think you can have it both ways.
Other than these characters I felt indifferent about the rest of the cast.
Other than a technical difficulty which caused the length of the interval to double whilst being sorted, I thought the visual and audio effects were quite effective. Maybe a little overkill on the flashing lights, which meant at points I could barely refocus before being temporarily blinded again! However, the team utilised the lighting to create magical illusions and eerie moments, keeping things slick and professional.
The staging and set must be mentioned and thoroughly praised. Imposing gothic columns, iron bars and a few windows and beds were simple yet effective, and created full theatrical sets within seconds.
So the ultimate question… was it scary? I don’t necessarily “scare” easily but I do jump at everything. It’s just an instinctive reaction, even if I’m not on edge. I jumped because somebody popped their bag of crisps open today in the office. During the show I did my fair share of jumping, but the scare factor was lost from the dragging dialogue and tension that was broken with cheesy lines.
Maybe I didn’t connect because of the dry dialogue or the lack of fear I so wanted to feel, or simply the fact that the novel of Dracula simply doesn’t translate well to stage. It was still an enjoyable show but I wasn’t whisked into the world that was played out before me.