Arts Reviews

Dracula @ Theatre Royal

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the most globally iconic novels ever written. This Jenny King adaptation adds to Stoker’s monumental legacy by resurrecting the dark and thrilling tale and bringing it into contemporary life. She brings the father of all vampire stories to new heights with terrifying staging, illusion designs and a unique, new spin on the famous characters, all of which create a spine-chilling theatrical experience.

“The set changes between each scene were the smoothest I have ever watched”

Obsession and horror were brought to the Nottingham stage in a completely re-imagined form beginning in the infamous castle of Count Dracula in Transylvania. Set designer Sean Cavanagh deserves huge recognition for creating one of the most brilliant set imaginable in my opinion. Large, movable pillars, windows, beds and props ensured that they used the stage to its full potential. Not only were they fitting in terms of colour, shape and style for the Gothic period in which it was set, the set changes between each scene were the smoothest I have ever watched.

Movement Director Sarah Green should be equally applauded for her ability to generate a multitude of changes and movements which ensured that even extras didn’t look as though they were solely there to move these big designs but had an integral role within the scene. Such extras were dressed to fit the part and often moved in a vampire-like fashion with specific choreography that felt natural to the performance. The only point that it felt the audience were waiting slightly too long was when they were moving the table in Dracula’s castle to the forefront of the stage. This, however, did not take away from the scene in any way.

“Interest was maintained throughout”


The audience, chatting in their seats prior to the start of the play, were brought to a scream and unsettled laughter as music accompanied an intense flash, signifying the introduction of Dracula’s prey. The initial use of special effects began what I can only describe as the cleverest way I have seen music, sound, lighting, and smoke create such a startling impact on an audience. Throughout the performance, sound travelled around various speakers in the circular hall, implying that Dracula was always surrounding us. It appeared the audience felt as much the Count’s victim as the characters.

Great attention to pacing was evident as the show’s opening, attention-capturing fright, was followed by Act 1, intermission, and then the final Act. It is worth noting how producer Matthew Gale and Director Eduard Lewis chose to end Act 1 and begin Act 2; interactive elements made this most memorable since Act 1 closes with the dramatic image of Dracula, played by Glen Fox, opening his cape like bat as the room fills with darkness. Bats fell from the ceiling startling audience members who wondered what this was, before realising it was just black confetti. This interactive element ensured interest was maintained throughout and kept the audience thrilled.

“They conveyed their respective sense of virtuousness and seductiveness very well”

The female characters were played tremendously well by Olivia Swann (Mina) and Jessica Webber (Lucy). Their acting was impeccable, particularly during the more sexual scenes and possessed moments. They conveyed their respective senses of virtue and seductiveness very well. It was particularly commendable that the writers chose to play with the gender of Renfield, adapting the book’s male character to be a woman, highlighting that the relation to mental instability of the time remains similar, regardless of gender. Cheryl Campbell, who played Lady Renfield, was outstanding in her role using various degrees of volume and intonation to convey madness.

“The soup blood and Lucy’s ripped out heart, were dramatically morbid”

Overall, I would definitely consider this performance of Dracula to be my favourite thus far. If you are open to slight alterations from the book, then this is certainly the adaptation for you. From start to finish the entire play was captivating and intriguing, holding my attention throughout. The props, including the soup blood and Lucy’s ripped out heart, were dramatically morbid. Drama was taken a step further with the penultimate scene in which heavy rainfall began on stage, exciting the crowd and playing on the stereotypical yet brilliant display of the Gothic genre.

10/10- a must see!

Shanai Momi

Featured image courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook Page.

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