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Dracula at the Dukes, LancasterDracula adapted by Jane Thornton and John Godber

At The Dukes
Until 22 November 2003

Starring (in alphatbetical order) Clare Calbraith (Mina Harker), Sally Evans (Lucy Westenra), Stuart Goldsmith (Jonathan Harker/Arthur Holmwood), Adam Kay (Dr. Jack Seward), Robert Pickavance (Count Dracula/Renfield) and Martyn Read (Professor Van Helsing)

Directed by: Ian Hastings

THE PLOT
As a sudden and mysterious storm whips the coast of England, a young woman sleepwalks along the edge of a cliff. In the teeth of the gale, a ship crashes through the harbour entrance, abandoned except for an immense dog and fifty Claire Calbraith as Mina Harker andRob Pickavance as Draculaboxes of grave dust. The Transylvanian Count Dracula has arrived in England. Immortal only as long as he is able to drink the blood of the living, he pursues his victims with brutally devastating effect. From the remote wilderness of Yorkshire to a vast ruined castle near to London whose windows omit no light, the race to end Dracula's lustful power is underway, if only there is still time...

WHAT'S IT LIKE?
Although this version of Dracula has been staged in modern dress, director Ian Hastings thankfully returned the story to its Victorian setting while making the most of contemporary staging and technology to re-tell this tale of the original blood-sucking, maiden-stalking vampire.

Playing to a packed house, many dressed for the Hallowe'en opening night, the cast made the most of this adptation of Bran Stoker's gothic novel, with particular kudos to Robert Pickavance for his mesmerising portrayal of both Dracula and the insane lunatic, Renfield; and Clare Galbraith as Mina and Martyn Read as Professor Van Helsing.

Adam Kay as Jack Seward, Stuart Goldsmith as Arthur Holmwood, Sally Evans as Lucy Westenra and Martyn Read as Van Helsing in Dracula at the Dukes, LancasterOver 100 years after it was first written, you have to wonder whether it's possible to bring anything new to the Dracula story. After all, the good Count has seen many incarnations on both stage and screen. He's been parodied so often, it's often hard to take the awful deeds of the story seriously -- vampires killing women and children, exhumation of bodies, beheading, just to name a few. (And indeed, some of the opening night auidence did seem to react with laughter at the most peculiar times).

So does this play succeed as a new version of the Dracula story? Well, yes and no. It is certainly well acted, and the production values -- a simple set and big projection screen used to deliver some chilling effects -- are excellent. The general reaction of the first night audience was positive, growing in appreciation as the play built to a powerful conclusion where it began, in the wilds of Trannsylvania where Dracula seeks safety when his plans go awry.

Unfortunately, I have to say that for the most part, the play fails to prove truly chilling. Many of the more horrifying elements of the story take place off stage, with allusion not enough to make an impact. There is little of Dracula himself for much of the play -- though his presence is felt throughout. Neither is there much of the sexual magnetism and power that Dracula should exude -- for good or ill.

While I'm sure this production will grow with the telling, my feeling is that it's been let down by an overlong and unimpressive script, rescued by a brilliant cast and strong production values. It offers a good, but not great, night out at the theatre.

Review by John Freeman

Dracula runs until 22 November 2003
Box office: 01524 598500

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