In 1995, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was adapted by playwrights John Godber and Jane Thornton. Godber is a visiting professor at Liverpool Hope University, which is one of the reasons why in house company Rock the Boat productions chose it for their first theatrical performance.
In the pleasant surroundings of the Capstone Theatre, this Dracula’s strongest suit was its bold visuals. A stark white set helped set the scene via a range of projections that transformed the space from the castle’s exterior, to forests, to wallpapered sitting room. It was tasteful and well done.
The colour scheme, reflected in the costumes of the characters, also ensures the production is minimalist and smart (both the AVs and costumes the work of Laura Lomax). Chris Boyle’s Dracula, gothed up like a member of Cradle of Filth, gave a scenery-chewing yet sympathetic performance.
With little information about the playtext available online, it left one wondering whether some noticeable holes as things moved along were points lost in the initial script, or the interpretation.
For example, it didn’t really seem to be told what could have really scared Jonathan Harker so much in Dracula’s castle to be struck down with ‘brain fever’ in the first place (he appeared to completely sleep through the part where he’s nearly devoured by vamps), yet his fear is the set up for the whole play.
Perhaps it was as written — the device by which Lucy and Mina set the scene by reading out the other’s letter was confusing, and Jonathan’s rolling narration often wasted time pointing out the blatantly obvious.
Director Andrew Cooper’s decision to avoid the blood and guts one can expect from this classic tale was a good one. Although at some points it seemed a bit of viscera just might have heightened the drama, overall it seemed a much better call to leave some things to the imagination.
Another interesting touch was to make asylum inmate Renfield a woman after being impressed by Hannah Burkhardt’s performance. This worked well. But overall Boyle had his chance to shine made easier by an understated supporting cast who could have done with a little of the Count’s intensity themselves.