A caveat first – this review is based only on Act 1. It is extremely rare that I leave a production midway through a performance but, sadly, this production joins those ranks.
A stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s supernatural thriller should be dark, full of other-worldly elements and chills. Sadly Sell A Door Theatre Company’s latest production, taking up residence at the Greenwich Playhouse has replaced tension with camp melodrama that results in moments of unintentional comedy.
Liz Lockhead’s adaptation of Stoker’s novel is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year but it’s not a particularly gripping version of the classic tale to revive. Lockhead’s script turns Stoker’s chase across the Carpathian mountains into a series of wordy vignettes that offer little insight into the characters or the prevailing sense of menace required for this tale of vampires and innocence lost.
The narrative is confused and can’t seem to decide if it is going for a literary adaptation or Victorian Melodrama.
Things aren’t helped by a production that also seems confused over what genre to take, at times striving for realism but far to often lurching into overblown melodrama, again making it hard for an audience to engage or care for the characters. As such, when Dracula kills his first victim at the end of Act One we don’t know her well enough to care.
Director David Hutchinson needs to look at the pace of the piece; several cast members seem to be in a rush to deliver their lines without pause for breath or dramatic intent but, overall, the pace seems staid.
Some work is also needed to make the characters more than the two-dimensional sketches that they currently appear to be.
There are some nice performances in supporting roles; Kieran Hennigan’s disturbingly intense psychiatric patient, Renfield, and Sophie Holland’s down to earth maid, Florrie, impress. However, the more central characters disappoint. Matthew Grace’s Jonathan Harker is pedestrian, while Louis J Parker needs to pull his Count Dracula back several notches to stop the arch vampire becoming a comedic caricature. Far from being menacing it verges on high camp comedy, not helped by a cod Transylvanian accent that causes many a stifled giggle.
This is a young company with commendably ambitious aims but, sadly, this anaemic version of Dracula is nothing to get your teeth into.