Sunday, 2 February 2014

Review of Dracula at Queens Hall, Hexham

Found on Steve Oliver's blog
Dracula finds fresh blood.

Beautiful girls with mysterious puncture wounds in their necks? Count Dracula must be in town!

Dracula has been a part of modern culture for over a hundred years. It has been the subject of countless films and plays through its clear imagery. The Blackeyed Theatre Company aim to produce honest touring plays that will attract audiences around the mid-sized venues. In their interpretation we have a fast paced play in which the 5 extremely hard working actors succeed in covering a variety of roles in this highly efficient and entertaining production.

Jonathan Harker (Will Bryant) has passed his law exams and has been sent to Transylvania to sort out the personal affairs of Count Dracula (Paul Kevin-Taylor). His fiancé Mina (Rachel Winters) agrees to get married beforehand and decides to visit her romantic friend Lucy (Katrina Gibson) in Whitby. Meanwhile Doctor Seward (Gareth Cooper) studies his inmates, including Renfield (also Will Bryant) at the asylum near to the new house that the Count plans to buy.

Once the scenario is set up the play unfolds at a rapid pace. The ensemble occasionally turn musicians and we are entertained to a number of songs and a musical journey through Europe for our intrepid Harker.   John Ginman’s script remains faithful to the Bram Stoker text. The sometimes brutal Victorian turn of phrase producing the occasional laugh from the audience. Eliot Giuralarocca’s direction is in a style that we imagine to be contemporary to its story. Keeping pace on stage is a challenge for any play and the flow is helped by Victoria Spearing’s set design and Charlotte McClelland’s lighting.

Act 2 brings a return of the story to England and Professor Van Helsing, also played by Paul Kevin-Taylor, seeks to solve the mystery of Lucy’s health problems and the disappearing children. The audience, who are used to computerised special effects on the screen gasped as the previously empty coffin suddenly had a body on it. More special effects were to come as Lucy had had head cut off resulting in applause from the appreciative crowd.

After two hours of pure theatre the five highly skilled actors took their well deserved curtain call, as they had carried us through the whirlwind of a story without any cynicism.  Too often is theatre seen as been too elitist and removed. This production won over the folk of Hexham and at just £10 a ticket it was brilliant value.  Final mention goes to Paul Kevin-Taylor’s Dracula who managed to freak out the audience at the end. He had everyone in his grasp and produced a memorable finale.

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