Stage & Screen

Dracula

Dracula

Photo's:  Above Graeme Sommerville as Renfield Photo by David Cooper

Slider: Cherissa Richards as Lucy Westerman and Allan Louis asDracula in Dracula. Photo by David Cooper.

Bram Stoker was an Irish author born in the mid 1800’s, for years he was a theatre critic and was part of the literary staff at The Daily Telegraph in London.  It wasn’t until 1890 he wrote a book about a mysterious being that roamed the shadows at night seducing, then stealing life from his innocent victims.

Thought to be spawned by stories of the Romanian butcher, Vlad the Impaler, Dracula was conceived after visits by his close friend Armen Vambery, a Hungarian novelist and traveller, told him many stories of the Carpathian Mountains that cover most of Romania. 

In the 1920’s, Bram’s widow sold the rights to Dracula and Nosferatu became its first film adaptation.  A black and white silent version directed by F. W. Murnau it featured the vampire Count Orlok .  Since then there have been hundreds of films made featuring the blood suckers and at least a hundred writers who use vampires as the subjects of their stories.

With the new love for vampires rampant amongst Millenials, it is hard to look back at the original Dracula and find anything unique or anything that could be enhanced in the original story.  The script is predictable, almost campy, and like Titanic, everyone knows how it ends.

To take a classic horror film and adapt it to the stage is a feat in itself.  Liz Lochhead’s version delivers a script that transitions the movie on to the stage. Set and costume designer Michael Gianfrancesco, takes a minimalistic set design and creates stage magic flowing flawlessly between scenes set in Dracula’s castle, Carfax, the insane asylum and the English countryside.  Fog rolls endlessly into the theatre and black and white images appear on the screen to create the eerie backdrops. 

Casting for the role of the lunatic Renfield was perfect.   Graeme Summerville takes it to a new level as Dracula’s vehicle to gain access to his victim Lucy who is recovering at the asylum where her fiancé is a doctor.  The role of Lucy, played by Cherrisa Richards is convincing as Dracula’s muse, she is sexually charged and beautiful. 

Dracula is played by actor Alan Lewis, he is charming, seductive and allusive, he only appears on stage three or four times, but that gives him an even greater air of mystery.

After reading several bad reviews on Dracula I was anxious to see if I agreed.  With a three hour running time I was hoping my experience would be different – and it was.  If I had one complaint it was the awkward laughter of the audience at key parts of the script, perhaps too familiar with the story, however it was billed as a comedy.  

So what’s the verdict on Dracula – you should go!  Performances run at the Festival Theatre til October 14th.  For tickets visit www.shawfest.com

By Jenifer Cass