Dracula

Mon 2nd – Wed 4th December 2013

reviews

Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 23:29 on 3rd Dec 2013

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The Collingwood Woodplayers’ performance of this classic reworking of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ was definitely atmospheric. Admittedly, the beginning was slow, and throughout the performance Helsing’s dialogue was laboured with a lot of exposition. This should probably be attributed to the fact that this is an early reworking. Contemporary audiences are not likely to have had the extensive knowledge of vampire legends that we do. An attempt by the eerie ghost of Mina (Annie Smith) to incorporate the mobile-phone-and-strobe-light-warning with a chilling prelude to the plot seemed unnecessary – a simple sign would have done.

All of the actors did a good job, although some gave stronger performances than others. There is no doubt that the evil characters were much more memorable than the nice ones; Andrew Entwisle was delightfully creepy as Dracula. Even more striking was Jessie Smith’s portrayal of the crazy Renfield, which expertly struck the balance between unhinged evil and human vulnerability. The technical backdrop of flashing, coloured lights and music added to the effect, and were genuinely shocking in parts.

Ben Frost provided some much-needed comic relief in the role of Butterworth. Unfortunately, while he suited the role of bumbling, downtrodden psychiatric assistant down to the ground, a combination of the accent he affected and the fact he spoke too quickly meant that the audience only heard a few of his lines. Whether the decision to cast a girl in the role of Van Helsing was intentional or simply because they were struggling to find male actors was not clear, but Sian Green was an excellent choice. Probably the most professional on stage she was the propeller for the majority of the action, and played the part with complete conviction.

The space of the hall was used to upmost effect, and the audience all jumped when the characters, made ghostly and inhuman by the darkness, appeared from behind and in between the crowds. A few people tripped over their words, and the occasional attempts to involve the audience directly fell flat, as this was not consistent enough as a feature. The overall effect was often one of a very well done school play more than anything else, but overall it was an enjoyable night.

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