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Theatre Review Dracula, Leeds Playhouse

Northern Ballet's take on the vampiric legend is a gothic feast

HALLOWEEN treats don't get much better than Northern Ballet's revival of 2005's Dracula.

Choreographer and director David Nixon has creatively reinterpreted selected scenes rather than giving a faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel and this largely works in the production's favour, making it a boldly signposted and sumptuous gothic feast.

The amount of black velvet on stage, whether as swirling capes or piles of earth, is enough to dress a small army — Ali Allen's set design, especially the curling metalwork and cobwebs in the cemetery, is a Tim Burton dream brought to life.

As Dracula (Javier Torres) beetles across the stage the score, full of choral pieces and jagged strings, sets the teeth on edge like a 1930s horror film and there are generous amounts of tongue-in-cheek fun.

Dracula's seduction of virtuous teenager Lucy Westenra (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) sees her either in death throes or having an orgasm, her legs twitching around his torso. A huge axe is later produced to decapitate her as she lies in her coffin, her severed head being held aloft in the flickering light.

Nixon's success is in blending this lack of subtlety with mesmerising theatrical dance sequences. Lucy's appearance at her engagement party is elementary shorthand for her vampiric passions, with her hair cascading down the back of her scarlet gown.

Yet her uninhibited, seductive movements contrast beautifully with the constrained decorum of the other guests, while the sensuous dancing between Mina Murray (Abigail Prudames), an idealised version of the Victorian woman, and Dracula perfectly captures the sorrow of forbidden love.

A production with serious bite, this is Northern Ballet showcasing what it does best.

Runs until November 2, box office: northernballet.com.

 

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