Brockley Jack Theatre, London – until 27 October 2018
On National Coming Out day, there’s something rather delicious about the first act climax of Dracula being set to a haunting remix of Britney’s ‘Toxic’. He may be fangs-deep in Lucy and longing to make Mina his countess but we all saw how taken he was by Jonathan as he set up for a shave. Love is love is love, right, or should that be a vein is a vein is a vein…
Arrows & Traps have turned their hand to horror before, with a fearlessly inventive take on Frankenstein which lit up the Brockley Jack last year. So adaptor/director Ross McGregor turning to Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula makes sense, not least as it offers ample opportunity to refresh its rather dustily antiquated take on gender.
And this is where the production shines brightest. Beatrice Vincent and Lucy Ioannou imbue Mina and Lucy with a spirited confidence that posits them as much more equal partners to the various men in their lives, of whom Conor Moss makes a wonderfully gentle Jonathan. And Cornelia Baumann makes for a marvellously vivid Renfield, the asylum inmate who finds herself susceptible to the mind control of the dark lord.
McGregor also has fun with the novel’s epistolary style, the impressive scale of Francine Huin-Wah’s Gothic set design allowing for an epic sense of time and space to be evoked. And with Ben Jacobs’ lighting and Alistair Lax’s sound work establishing the creepiest of moods, this proves a sprightly adaptation, lead by the dangerously silky tones of Christopher Tester in a succession of dangerously slinky capes as Dracula (fun costume design from Odin Corie).
Arrows & Traps’ previous work does mean that they’ve set the bar incredibly high for themselves though and I find myself wondering, why this story? Ultimately, it doesn’t really surprise us in the (re-)telling, and nothing new shines through the hints about repressed desire and sexuality – damn those pesky expectations. Still, it is an imaginative take on a familiar tale.