Presented by Adelaide Festival Theatre and shake & stir and QPAC
Reviewed 7 September 2017
One of history’s most infamous characters has arrived in Adelaide as Australia’s leading contemporary theatre company, shake & stir, brings Bram Stoker’s Dracula to life in a haunting, sexy and violent take on the old-school vampire horror story.
It’s the late 1800’s a young Londoner, Jonathan Harker, has been sent deep into the foreign land of Transylvania to confirm the purchase of a rural English estate for a certain Dracula. Little does he know that this old castle will become his prison and Dracula, his blood-thirsty keeper. The audience is then swept across the sea to London where we witness Harker’s fiancé, Mina, pining to hear from her beloved, as well as the introduction of Jack Seward and his work in a mental asylum where one patient seems overly familiar with the vampire kind.
As the story progresses it becomes clear that Dracula is planning to takeover England, along with the rest of Europe, with his un-dead kind, alongside his wish to make the beautiful Mina his new vampire bride. From London to Transylvania, all characters journeys become entwined as the Vampire Lord begins to make his evil plans a reality.
The imagination and creativity that has clearly been put into the set design has created a setting of the absolute highest quality, transporting the audience to the chilling, forbidding world of an old, creepy 1800’s Transylvanian castle filled with the living dead. Set designer, Josh McIntosh, has done a fantastic job at recreating what feels like a terrifyingly dark and haunted castle, and has successfully utilised the turning stage to seamlessly move between not only different scenes, but different countries as well.
This is a show definitely not short on effects; from fog machines that would put any misty moor to shame, to turning staircases and as many blood capsules as you could imagine – it has it all. The stage lighting effects are without a doubt an absolute highlight of the show in their complex variations and succinct timing. Lighting designer, Jason Glenwright, definitely had his work cut out for him. These many effects combine to create an almost cinematic experience, as though the audience has been pulled into this dark and mysterious world of haunted castles and blood-sucking vampires from 1800’s Transylvania.
These impressive effects also extend to the remarkably realistic prosthetic makeup with which Dracula is physically created, thanks to make up designer Alex Ouston. With high, hollow cheek bones, deathly pale white skin and long silvery-white hair – Dracula transitions from a storybook horror to a terrifying stage presence right in front of your eyes.
The cast collaborate cohesively, and all present impressive on-stage acrobatics that sees the actors leaping off stairwells and crawling face-first down walls, with some brutal stage-fighting thrown in as well. Nick Skubij is frighteningly fantastic as both old and young Dracula with his dominating and seductive powers, and is an intimidating presence from his very first moment on-stage.
David Whitney provides some humorous comic relief as both the insane asylum patient with a love for blood-suckers, Renfield, as well as the confidently blunt, vampire slayer Van Helsing. What’s surprising is Whitney’s ability to completely embody the perfectly timed, over-the-top humour of a manipulative insane man, but somehow lacks the same spirit and energy at times when portraying Van Helsing.
Dracula is a historic horror, hauntingly brought to life before your very eyes, and is an absolute must-see in its run at Space Theatre.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Space Theatre, King William Street, Adelaide 5000
Season: 7 – 16 September
Duration: 100 mins
Tickets: $30 – $50
Photo credit: Dylan Evans