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Theatre Review Dracula lacks bite

Dracula
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

THERE ought to be plenty for the audience to sink their teeth into with Touring Consortium Theatre’s adaptation of Dracula.

The company has updated Bram Stoker’s gothic classic with a nod to Hammer Horror camp, with solicitor Jonathan Harker being offered blood-like soup upon his arrival in Transylvania and his schoolteacher fiancee Mina complaining of “slight toothache” after falling victim to the Count.

It also draws on female empowerment, with the aristocratic Lucy Westenra (Jessica Webber) recast here as a sexually liberated young woman. Psychiatric hospital patient Renfield (Cheryl Campbell) is somewhat surreally shown giving birth to Dracula and the Count’s brides demonstrate their hunger through an expressive physical-theatre scene.

Sean Cavanagh’s design remains true to gothic arches, with moving panels switching the action between Whitby and the Carpathian Mountains and bursts of light, punctuated by industrial noise, create some genuine thrills and tricks of illusion — especially spellbinding when Dracula hurls himself into the audience and disintegrates into thousands of pieces of black ticker-tape.

These creative touches set the scene for what should be a truly memorable production. But they’re let down by acting that’s frequently as wooden as the stake that’s driven into the Count’s heart. Philip Bretherton seems to have based his accent for Van Helsing on Borat and, while Webber warms into her role, her initial skirt-whisking flirtatiousness leaves little to the imagination.

And Jenny King’s script seems torn between the traditional and the contemporary — a tension that’s never fully resolved during a show that’s entertaining but ultimately lacks bite.

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