The Playhouse 12/10/21

Putting a new spin on the tale of the eponymous vampire, imitating the dog theatre company modernise a well-known tale with impressive clout. Set on New Years Eve 1965 this bold reimagining of the mythical Dracula takes the audience on a jaunt through history as a recent crime drags the past into the present. An impressive performance from the cast of three (Riana Duce, Adela Rajnovic, Matt Prendergast) blends innovative staging and projections to add another technological dynamic to the show. Scenes unfold as a live action graphic novel as this murder mystery plays out, keeping the audience guessing at every turn.

Primarily set in a police station, we meet two police officers and a woman who will only just utter monosyllabic answers to questions at the very beginning. As the questioning develops the police officers bring dry comic relief to the stage- aren’t the best parts of work the cigarette breaks? However, the transformation from near silence to enigmatic storytelling feels a little off balance for the woman introduced as Mina Harker (Duce) who otherwise captivates the stage as a powerful protagonist.

DRACULA: THE UNTOLD STORY Image

The set complements the plot and operates in subtle and inventive ways, providing a variety of angles to add a dynamic depth to the performance. Three cameras are positioned onstage which the three actors use and manipulate to a wide range of effects projecting the resulting videos onto the expansive backdrop of the set as they happen. This allows the questioning to play out as a graphic novel with quirky use of angles and green screens allowing for changes of mood, location and scene. It is clever and absorbing and for a while you forget that you aren’t watching a film, even if there is a slight lag between sound and video.

Throughout the story of Mina Harker and her hunt for the vampire Dracula a plethora of characters are played by Rajnovic and Prendergast. The fluidity is exact, and each character is played with such conviction onto the projection behind that it is easy to forget there are only three actors onstage and two are actually in police uniform. The plot whirls between countries back and forth to the present with some scenes translated onscreen in speech bubbles where the actors switch effortlessly between German, French and Spanish to name but a few. Credit where credit is due, the accents were authentic and the dialogue wasn’t forced or stunted, adding a fresh element to the script.

DRACULA: THE UNTOLD STORY Image

This gothic chiller winds humour in with a smattering of jump scares that hit you with loud music and intense scenes projected into the theatre as the mood darkens towards the climax of the show. Whilst it keeps the audience guessing, it perhaps might have kept them guessing too much as sometimes I got lost with place and name changes and the pace of the storytelling. Having said that, some of the longer dialogues were unnecessarily wordy, not that my attention wandered too far as there was plenty else occurring onstage between the projections and comic-strip nature of them.

Dracula: The Untold Story is an immersive, entertaining show that uses the stage to its full capacity to explore another avenue of an established tale. Despite the show evidently being a gothic thriller, at times it didn’t quite know where to land on the gothic scale with some of the more dramatic, intense horror scenes almost feeling out of place amongst the rest of the script. Although the storyline wavered a little and could be convoluted at times, the show was performed with conviction by a talented cast, woven together by creative technology, ensuring a compelling watch.

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