Gemma Hirst

Review: Dracula @ Queen's Hall, Hexham

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“I can give you your forbidden, secret desire – the soft bitter touch of my kiss, the surrender, the chance to live and love forever.”

The Black Eyed Theatre Company’s portrayal of Bram Stokers’ Dracula, adapted by John Ginman, is not a play for audiences with a nervous disposition.

A small cast of five brought the famous tale of Dracula to life through the art of Victorian Theatre. The play used a variety of theatrical illusions that played on the audiences lack of understanding of theatre technology – Black Eyed Theatre Company tricked us many a time.

This was especially true in the scene where we see Lucy Westenra (Katrina Gibson) standing lifeless in a magic box fashioned as a coffin. As the door is shut and re-opened, within in a second she disappeared. It was a case of if you blink then you miss it.

Dracula was played by Paul Kevin-Taylor, who was sporting eye-catching red hair and long silver nail manicure nails (though I doubt Count Dracula was able to have his nails done in the 1800’s). He was really pulling off that edgy punk, rock, gothic vibe all in one look. I thought that Taylor looked very similar to Kenneth Williams which worked in his favour.

Especially as he was playing more than one character, he was able to use physicality to clearly define between the two personas. As many of the actors were able to play instruments to aid the narrative it brought a lighter tone to this very dark picture. Almost to throw the audience off guard and to expect the unexpected, music was very much at heart of the play, it helped the story move along as there were sections of the play, especially in the second half, where it started to die down and drift off but the music was there to regain interest.

The whole performance was almost a showcase of black magic and trickery, adding to the dark and haunting atmosphere that was created on the stage at the Queens Hall at Hexham.

The set was conjured up with pipes, chains and screens it had an industrial feel to it, this was quite fitting in the time period of the tale. 1897 was a time where scientific and media discoveries were being made. This was quite fitting as John Ginman blended Victorian Gothic with the contemporary. He drew upon on theatre techniques that were established at that time.

Dracula had me on the edge of my seat and I am sure the nightmares are to follow. Now where did I put my garlic necklace?

[usr 8]