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Dracula (Chelmsford)

As stage adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula go, this new one by John Ginman for Blackeyed Theatre follows the book closely.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Will Bryant and Paul Kevin-Taylor
© Alex Harvey-Brown - Savannah Photographic 2013

There is a cast of five to take us through the story of young newly-weds Jonathan and Mina Harker, her friend Lucy Westenra, asylum director Dr Seward, his patient Renfield, his friend Professor Van Helsing and Count Dracula himself.

Director Eliot Giuralarocca uses every trick in the theatrical book, and a deceptively simple setting by Victoria Spearing, to take us from London across Europe to Transylvania and back via Whitby to London.

There's a clever use of music with the threatening "Dies Irae" from the Requiem Mass competing with the redemption promise of the "Libera me"; the cast also play various instruments.

Some of the part-doubling is extremely inventive. Paul Kevin-Taylor plays both Dracula (with a Nosferatu relish) and his nemesis Van Helsing. Will Bryant is both the naïve young lawyer Harker and the insect-gobbling Renfield. Katrina Gibson's girlish Lucy, so gently refusing Seward (Gareth Cooper)'s proposal, develops into the most sinister of un-dead creatures.

Rachel Winters makes Mina into a woman who has strengths as well as affections, clear-sighted when the men about her are faltering. There's some ingenuous shadow-play and mime as well as some costume (Jenny Little) quick-changes which work very well.

Any stage version of a novel has to compress scenes and eliminate characters. Here the filleting has been done with a very shap scapel.

Dracula is at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford until 23 January as part of a national tour to 30 May.

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