Thursday, 2 October 2014

Dracula - Bristol Old Vic

Photo credit: Farrows Creative

Guest review by Bo Novak

Journey into the cold, black night with the Mark Bruce Company at Bristol Old Vic and share in a thrilling and romantic adventure to foreign lands full of mystery and danger.

The first half of Dracula is staggeringly creepy. The wolves circle and pounce. The vampire brides writhe and screech like inmates of Bedlam. Unspeakable brutality is vividly signposted, leaving our imaginations to fill in the blanks.

And what of the Count himself? Being more of the Interview With The Vampire generation rather than Twilight, I’m used to vampires being intellectual and conflicted. But Jonathan Goddard’s Dracula is not an urbane aristocrat bemoaning his cursed state but a hollow-cheeked, suede-headed, black-hearted thug with no compunction for his victims. His concubines are bawdy, ethereal and sensual. When they (literally) go for the jugular, it is frenzied and intense, not pretty.

The castle’s gothic splendour is conveyed by intricate ironwork and stone coffins, illuminated by a cold, white moon. The only warmth comes from the candles lit for visitors. Yet Christianity comes out as very flabby in the face of the animalistic and amoral Dracula.

This is dance drama of the highest order, with dancers who are all fine actors, and a dance style that is bold, physical and contemporary, wittily borrowing from other schools of dance to lighten the mood here and there, but always moving the story on.

Eleanor Duval is particularly expressive as Mina and her pas de deux before and after her encounter with Dracula - when she is changed forever - are both beautifully done. Kristin McGuire oozes raw physicality as she goes from cheeky ingénue to insatiable undead seductress.

There is plenty of humour to offset the pervading sense of threat. The ensemble pieces are fun, there is a light-hearted marriage proposal, and even a knowing wink to Rocky Horror’s Magenta the Maid. They also somehow pull off Dracula donning top hat and cane to do a Busby Berkeley number while he toys with his terrified prey.

The music, a patchwork of different styles and pieces lifted from classical and modern genres, slightly detracted from the cohesion of the piece, but credit to Guy Hoare for the immersive environment created by the lighting and Phil Eddolls for the beautiful and versatile set.

Like Matthew Bourne, Mark Bruce reinvigorates a classic story using accessible dance forms, and the Company richly deserved the raucous applause from the audience. A magnificent evening of light and dark.

Dracula is performed at Bristol Old Vic until 4 October. Formore information and to buy tickets, please click here

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