It’s vampires everywhere these days isn’t it? Quite what today’s angst-ridden emo teens would make of John Godber and Jane Thornton’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic chiller is anyone’s guess though. It should come as no surprise that a 19th century novel should be so talky, but does the 20th century adaptation need to be quite so… slow?
The Count’s long absences from the play are potentially tricky, though with an injection of sexuality and threat and the uncanny his presence is often tangible. But long stretches where very little happens, combined with long monologues make for a frequently wearying experience.
How much of this is down to the production and how much down to the adaptation is not clear, but any watching editor would have been fingering a red pen fervently: the redundancy of many scenes just begging to be slashed more than apparent.
Some innovative lighting and minimal set design mean that some aspects of Rock The Boat’s first production work very well – washed-out projections are eerie and stark. Audio voiceovers from Dracula are a good idea but don’t always come off well, while occasional music accompaniment is welcome when the action drags. As it does frequently.
For the cast to pull of such a long-winded script is impressive in itself, but some underwhelming performances prevent this production of Dracula from rising above the middling. It was hard to get an impression of Godber’s script when it wasn’t necessarily audible; when it was it was frequently rather flat.
Eleanor Kilroy as Mina Harker was excellent; a convincing, well-projected rendition with some convincing moments of sensuality. Elsewhere David Bradley as Van Helsing was rather amusing and different, Chris Boyle got Dracula just right for the few-and-far-between moments he was on stage and Hannah Burkhardt’s female Renfield was always good when she popped out of her cat-flap. A couple of the performances were just weak though – and at least two members of the cast should have swapped roles.
Godber and Russell’s adaptation is ‘rarely performed’, apparently. With wretchedly dull monologues on travelling around Eastern Europe or London that’s not a huge surprise. It needed to be brought to life – its sexuality, sensuality, menace and romance to the fore; instead, too often, the production seemed to mimic the pedestrian narrative, despite the more imaginative flourishes working when they were attempted.
This is the first night of Rock The Boat’s first production, so it’s to be expected that there would be problems, first-night nerves and kinks that needed ironing out. It seemed, though, that Godber and Russell’s script would have tested any production – it felt as bloodless as one of Dracula’s corpses. Here’s hoping Rock The Boat come back stronger following their Transylvanian misadventure.
Dracula runs at the Capstone Theatre until Saturday 12 February