The title of this mew play by David Geasor and Paul Holloway does it no favours. It’s not an updating of the Bram Stoker’s novel to the present century; rather, it’s a fiction based on 21st century fact. True, we’re in Transylvania, but it’s part of post-Ceausescu Romania rather than the Hungarian fief of Vlad the Impaler.
Ileama (Mia Keadell) and her English boy-friend Jonathan (Amdy McKeane) have come from Bucharest to her home village for the funeral of Petre, the uncle who (with his wife Magda) brought her up. Like Petre, both Ileana and Jonathan are teachers – modern people with modern attitudes. But life in the remote countryside, where the next village is foreign – even hostile – territory, has traditions which seem bizarre to someone who hasn’t grown up amid them.
Holloway as director gives his cast, McKeane apart, accents which reflect this town and country divide. The performances are committed with Priscilla Gray’s Magda moving in her sense of double loss and Andrea Miller as Ileana’s godmother Dragana credible as she enforces old rituals for contemporary purposes. Keadell and McKeane also convince as does in a very different way Oliver Tilney’s portrait of Alexandru, a villager whose resentments and frustrations are always ready to overspill.
Although Annabel Lee’s set is impressive with its monochrome blend of the naturalistic and the surreal flared across with crimson, the scene changes aren’t always as smooth as that might be. This is a stage play, but the way the action moves quickly from location to location suggests that it might be happier as a film script.