REVIEW: Dracula @The Spire

October 28, 2018

“He appears like a fog, but only at night, lusting for blood… and fearing daylight.”

THIS Halloween, TRUESTORY present their evocative, thrilling and haunting tale of a cursed man’s eternal search for true love and world domination. Set in the atmospheric Spire, this new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s chilling classic combines physical, fast-paced storytelling with the company’s bold, theatrical style.

It’s a got a few very good things going for it, this production of Dracula. It’s probably got the best venue possible for this crepuscular tale of ultimate gothic horror –  The Spire, the abandoned spooky, cobwebby, very ( very) cold old church out on Eastern Road, the outside looking like its frozen in the stark flash of a lightning strike and the trembling essence of a persuasive whispered suggestion that nothing good will come of going inside. Wrap up warm if you do venture in, it’s cold in there, like the grave itself.

Another thing going for it, is it’s adherence to the original text of Bram Stoker, a misunderstood Irish master of suspense and emotional manipulation, Stokers original has been fused, poked and messed around with by Hollywood’s star vehicles that we’ve lost the essence of this story.

Here director Gary Sefton has taken it back to it’s very raw and startling core. Stokers’ narrative is suffocating, claustrophobic, lonely and filled with despair, fear and heavy with the Victorian crusade of science against superstition. Dracula is perhaps the most perfect example of this battle, both in its narrative which is ancient evil incarnate against evidence, science and the redemption of the Christian faith, odd bedfellows to a 21st century mind perhaps, but perfect cuddle buddies to the Victorian audiences. It’s a tale of entitlement, stalking, addiction and hope.

So with a superb venue, an excellent narrative returned to its essential self the third part of this show is it’s cast and once again we’re presented with a passionate ensemble of actors, playing parts with passion and conviction to breath the breath of life into this undead work.

The cast is great, changing roles, space, time and geography with a choreographed grace and speed which although at first is a confusing whirl soon matches the urgent speed of this narrative, which never stays still for a moment – their quick changes of place and character are like the throbbing pulse of a heartbeat in the background, keeping time, ticking away the seconds to our doom.

Each time I see this lot at the Spire I’m impressed in how well they dress the space with light, smoke and just the right amount of multi-use set to immerse us into the plot. We all know the story, The Count, ancient and holed up in his castle in Transylvania find out about London, wishes to be here, sets off, ends up in Whitby then a chase against time starts to stop him before it’s too late, with a love story, some passion, a few deaths, lots of worrying creepy ladies with a hunger for blood, drafty asylums filed with insect-eating madmen and the Count himself, played here with a bloodless ruthless charm by Gary Sefton. I won’t spoil the effects of out first sight of the bloodsucker, but it’s scary, surprising and spooky.

They work at a furious pace this well-drilled troupe and summon up midnight thumping carriage rides through a haunted forest, the interior of lunatic asylums, escapes from Romanian Castles and the intimate chambers of a London home with stylistic suggestions and swift movements of their endlessly manipulative wooden staffs and long flowing capes.

We’ve no time for rest, it’s breathless, onwards we plunge into the neck of the story, in just an hour of tightly scripted and fearfully choreographed action we’re whisked right up next to the fetid face of eons of loneliness of the Counts existential grief, his rather odd pick-up habits, the ripped bodices of Victorian obsession of erotic suppressions and the heaving horror of seduction and abandonment to the flesh.

Thank goodness for Van Helsing, here played by Emma Kilbey giving a rather nice gender nudge in the right direction for this troublesome narrative, and squaring off the old powerful patriarchal  entities – Count against modern feminism tooled up with no-nonsense science and a bottle of holy water. I adored her Van Helsing, here a cross between Dr Who’s River Song and Laura Croft is an excellent foil for the blood sucking monster, and although we only see one chapter of their ongoing battle royal, we know that these two are locked in mortal and immortal combat. What we witness is compelling and a joy to shiver through.

Once again TRUESTORY have produced a show which is not only in context, but well-timed and the show to go see this Halloween. Bundled with some nice atmospherics before the show starts and some superbly simple effects of light and smoke, played out all around and in front of you as you sit in the side of the church. It’s a engaging production with just the right amount of chills and faithful to the heavily laden horror of the original.  It’s judged safe enough for brave eight year olds to cope with but they’ll be having nightmares, I did, I’ll never be able to look at a lace nighty again….

Runs till November 4, get your butt along to bag a seat before they all sell out.

To buy tickets online, click here: