From the moment I entered the Norman Chapel in University College last night, it was obvious Castle Theatre Company’s production of Dracula was going to be a successful one.
The choice of venue suited the occasion perfectly, transporting you to an era where vampires really could exist and instantly generated an eeriness that only grew as the play went on.
The ingenious partnership with DU BloodSoc, announced before the play began, set the tone for what continued to be a witty and well thought out production. It balanced creep and comedy to create an enjoyable show that remained ever conscious of its ability to shock and unsettle, catching me off guard many times in the process.
The intimate seating meant that you were involved in every moment of the action and every expression on the actor’s (and members of the audience’s) faces. This did not seem a problem at all to the cast as their consistently remarkable characterisation and vocal control filled the space. They adjusted accordingly to the noise of the wonderful string quartet behind them which allowed for an emotive and thrilling performance without missing a word. Freya Hall captured the delicate deterioration of Lucy, whilst Grace Brimacombe-Rand as Mina became the epitome of dutiful heiress. Keir Mulcahey playing Jonathon demonstrated his versatility and there were moments were the audience was held captivated by his performance. Although seeming initially a little nervous, George Heuck grew as a believable and powerful portrayal of Dr Arthur Seward. The servant, Florrie, played by Francesca Chaplin, became a character I loved – though perhaps that was just the brilliantly executed Yorkshire accent. She displayed anger, sadness and still generated laughs, complementing director Sophie Boddington’s choice of a version of the play with a ‘razor sharp focus on the unheard voices within the narrative.’ I must admit I was a little irritated by the character of Van Helsing, played by John Duffet, as the laugh/cry which permeated every monologue became rather annoying. Yet I realised it did entirely embody the weird and more-than-slightly manic persona of someone who does, after all, hunt vampires for a living.
every mannerism made me feel as if I was in a film from the 1940’s
Special mention must go to Harry Twining’s Renfield who dominated the stage both physically and vocally, ramping up the eerie atmosphere from start to finish. Then there is, of course, Count Dracula himself, played by Kyle Kirkpatrick, who could not have been more hilarious and utterly convincing. His controlled performance allowed for perfectly placed comedic timing to simultaneously become completely unnerving and every mannerism made me feel as if I was in a film from the 1940’s. This was only enhanced by the faultless lighting, the surprisingly extensive range of colours bringing out key moments in the script and allowing for seamless scene transitions.
Overall, I think the applause that continued well after the end of the play stands testament to the efforts of both cast and crew, who have created a production which is immersive, moving and undeniably funny. It is fair to say that I left thirsty for more.
Photograph: Castle Theatre Company