Thursday, 10 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Dracula's Ghost - The Library Theatre, Oldham.


Dracula is a tale that has made its way very successfully into popular culture, with vampires appearing in numerous films, television shows and comic books. Because of this, Bram Stoker’s original saga has been much transformed since its publication in 1897. However, Don’t Go Into The Cellar Theatre Company strive to resurrect the original Victorian narrative, using similar language to that of Stoker’s novel.

'Dracula’s Ghost' was no exception. This production was clearly a passion project for writer, performer and artistic director, Jonathan Goodwin. We can see a theme in his productions; some of the theatre company’s previous works being Frankenstein 1899, Strictly Sherlock and Unmasking Jack The Ripper. Goodwin pays homage to Victorian gothic literature. His passion is visible in his performance as Count Dracula, as he is meticulous in his movements and voice. Every aspect of the character has clearly been well thought through.

Along with Suzy Celensu, the two performers explore the idea that Bram Stoker’s novel was indeed a work of fact, rather than fiction, with Dracula encountering Mrs Stoker in disguise. However, due to the often lengthy monologues and lack of dialogue between the two characters, I saw this production more like 90 minutes of storytelling in which the two performers became different characters and told us at length about their lives. This is perhaps a deliberate approach, as a way of emphasising the importance of the original text of Stoker’s Dracula, and indeed other works of gothic fiction, with the heavy use of text in the play. It must be said though, that this production is a testament to both Goodwin and Celensu to remember such lengthy pieces of text.

The set and lighting was intriguing, having the actors lit entirely from below created a deathly appearance for the performers, as well as casting huge shadows on the curtains behind them. Whilst this was a good use of lighting for the themes of the production, I would have liked some variety so that the use of shadows did not become overused. The set itself was small and intimate, which worked well. And the clutter added further to the feeling of a small, claustrophobic space. Technical director, Gary Archer, ought to be commended here.

As a fan of gothic literature myself, there were moments within this play that I really enjoyed. Such as the many references to popular Victorian culture and the blending of other well-known works of fiction from that era. Who would have thought that Irene Adler and Dracula would ever meet? Or that Bela Lugosi’s Dracula would be viewed on stage by the original vampire king himself? This is a production aimed at fans of the original texts, I believe, who would be able to enjoy the language and the surprise guests, but would not have been an easy first step for a newcomer to the original world of Victorian gothic fiction.

Reviewer - Megan Relph
on - 9/10/19

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