The words ‘dancing Dracula’ conjures up ridiculous cartoon imagery in my brain of a caped, fanged old man attempting to do ballet while speaking in a fake Transylvanian accent. Worse still it could be someone cashing in on the teenage vampire craze and creating some sort of ballet Twilight monstrosity.
Luckily neither of these is what you get with Mark Bruce’s fantastic adaptation of the classic Bram Stoker novel. I cannot claim to be an expert on dance, in fact I’ve only ever seen one ballet on the stage and that was earlier this year, yet as soon as I saw the stage atmospherically shrouded in dry ice and lit to expose a tremendous depth to the scenery I knew I was in for an amazing experience.
The opening scene introduced us to Dracula and five of the dancers. Each of the dancers had wolf masks on, running with Dracula through the scene. The masks made the dancers look hauntingly dark and created shadows on the surrounding walls that added to the tense atmosphere of the opening.
Dracula is a classic tale and Jonathan Goddard plays the famous count himself. He looks like he’s only had blood as sustenance for years, the way he emotes and holds his body is more characterisation than you could ever get with speech. The way he dragged his body while he performed such intricate and graceful dances was bewildering. The cast is relatively small of only 10 and the stage at the tobacco factory is small in comparison to most theatres but the scenery and lighting kept you engaged. Each important movement was bathed in some sort of atmospheric lighting and could’ve made a phenomenal photograph.
The music ranges from Bach to Fred Frith and the choreography goes from classical ballet to visceral contemporary dance, yet it feels like a linear and well-balanced performance. The gothic nature of the book is completely replicated in the darkness of the props and is set off by the bright dresses the characters of Mina and Lucy wear.
The actors were mostly silent apart from a couple of scenes where Dracula’s female harem make ghoulish shrieks and a great scene where the character of Holmwood sings an almost operatic proposal to Lucy, a scene which is both character building and a bit of comic relief.
The second half flew by and the story intensifies once the men exact revenge on Dracula. The themes that Dracula explores of sexual conventions, immigration and women’s roles within society are still relevant today, and it’s this relevance as well as the spell binding horror story they are contained in, that keep people coming back the story.
This adaptation makes nods to both the original story and other adaptations (Nosferatu being the main one) but it feels fresh and exciting. I was completely absorbed through the whole performance and cannot recommend this enough especially to those who are fans of classic horror.