Monday, 11 March 2013

Dracula - review

Written by: Tom Woods (@Thomas_E_Woods)

Where did Woods watch it?
Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Was Woods won over?

Vampires have become something of a hot topic in recent years, and with the tagline ‘The Original Twilight’, Ninon Jerome’s production of Dracula sounds keen to put all these new vampires in their place by bringing Bram Stoker’s original bloodsucker to a modern day audience. Sadly, any clever exploration of themes, and how they relate to the 21st century, is lost in the confusing direction and a myriad of poor design decisions.

One might perhaps place the fault with Liz Lochhead’s script, which in itself seems just as confused, clinging to ham-fisted modernisations: it combines, for instance, archaic speech with jokes ending with the punch line “P45”. More often than not, the girls Lucy, Mina and Florrie come across as Disney channel renditions of Jane Eyre, throwing around the word “silly” as if it were going out of fashion. But for all the text’s faults, the production does not help.

Photo: Tigz Rice Studios
Costumes often feel out of place for the characters wearing them – a prime example is a young successful lawyer jetting off to finalise a deal in chinos and a turtleneck. Props seem inserted into scenes for no apparent reason, yet the actors often cling to them like lifelines.

Energy is another thing sorely lacking in the production. Scenes feel lacklustre at times, and scene changes do not match up with the woefully misguided music choices, which accompany the piece all too often without adding anything to it. On the whole, the play feels utterly confused, not quite sure whether it wants to portray a modern adaptation or remain true to the gothic roots of Dracula, and fails to achieve either.

The highlights of the production might be few and far between, but Jay Worthy’s Renfield is fantastic. Whilst the character’s maintained presence on stage through the majority of the play serves no purpose, with reasons that seem arbitrary, it shows a real strength in Worthy’s performance. By far the most watchable character, and strongest actor, he is one of the few diamonds in the rough. Equally, the very brief moment (which, unsurprisingly, stars Renfield) in which three scenes occur simultaneously is almost effective, albeit shoehorned. One can’t help but feel that it could have been the highlight of a better production.

Ultimately, it seems that Jerome has bitten off far more than she can chew. A smorgasbord of influences and conventions lead to a play that is illegible at best, confusing and disappointing at worst. The text might have shown promise with a stronger direction, but in the end it feels that this is one revival that might have been better off left buried.

This production has now closed.
@FairfieldHalls @itsmacho

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