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Review; DRACULA Capstone Theatre.

Byline: Marc Waddington

I HAVE to admit to being a bit dubious when I heard I was to review a John Godber - he of Bouncers and On The Piste fame - version of Dracula.

Would it be set in a leisure centre, a kind of "Nosferatu meets the Brittas Empire"? Thankfully not. The text was very faithful to what is arguably the greatest horror story ever written, and the production began with promise. The opening saw a swirling cloudscape projected onto the back of the white box space, and the original music helped set a foreboding scene.

While each of the cast clearly had some promise, the direction failed to create the sense of trepidation and fear which is so central to the play. When the lights came up, there was not enough sense of suspense and intrigue, and when the clearly capable Chris Boyle playing the eponymous character made his entrance, he did so with all the flourish of a prop-hand who had accidentally wandered onto the stage.

But that was not so much the case of any failure of the acting, but of the direction: key moments were rushed and not savoured, while the pace slowed when there needed to be a sense of urgency.

Ryan Moohan, playing Jonathan Harker, seemed to have too matter-of-fact an approach, and even towards the climax when Harker must bear witness to his dear wife Mina (played excellently by Eleanor Kilroy) being demonically defiled by the Prince of Darkness himself, it did not seem to provoke any real jealousy or outrage. "Faith enables us to believe in things which we know not to be true," as Van Helsing (played confidently and dark humorously by David Bradley) remarks, but there were elements of the staging that made it at times impossible to suspend the disbelief. Director Andrew Cooper clearly had some strong ideas for this piece, but some of the greatest opportunities were missed or at least not properly capitalised.

For instance, when finally the principal characters catch up with Dracula back in Transylvania, his murder is something of a damp squib, with the lights blacking out as the wooden stake is brought to bear. With a bit of shadow work behind a screen, the execution could have been explicitly played out.

There was real promise on display at times in this production, but it lacked the eroticism and evil that made this tale one that, like the love Dracula yearns for, never dies.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2012
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