Niamh Melody finds this innovative, graphic novel style retelling of Dracula a unique take on a familiar story
Imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse have successfully turned a classic horror story into a gripping, technologically advanced piece of theatre with Dracula: The Untold Story – in a way that somehow seems natural and easy, despite it being clear that it must have taken months of hard work to put this production together.
The story is told through scenes from the present (New Years Eve 1965) and many flashbacks. It features a small cast of Riana Duce, Matt Prendergast and Adela Rajnović with the latter two taking on the roles of police officers, WPC Williams and DS Donaldson.
The officers are questioning Mina Harker – played by Riana Duce – who appeared that night confessing to the murder of a body they recently found and claiming to be Mina, despite not looking like the 90-year-old woman that people would expect from the original story of Dracula.
Riana Duce as the strong-willed yet weary Mina Harker is impeccable, bouncing between elaborate monologues and difficult physical acting with ease. The character starts off as mysterious and elusive and gradually shows that she is clever but also seemingly heartless in what she has had to do to prevent Dracula and his brand of evil from taking over the world. Mina’s difficult story brings about the question of what true evil is and whether good people can do terrible things without also succumbing to evil eventually.
The police officers create a necessary connection to the realistic world for the audience – with humour and dialogue between the two that is reminiscent of modern TV crime dramas (think Law and Order) which neatly contrasts the gothic atmosphere of Mina’s flashbacks.
Impressively, Prendergast and Rajnović also take on other roles in the story with one standout being the way Dracula is cleverly portrayed through shadow play and voice effects from the two cast members and great sound by Rory Howson. The eerie way this is created makes the figure of Dracula more intimidating and hellish than other interpretations have previously.
The incorporation of the graphic novel aspect – with Simon Wainwright on projection and video design – is done seamlessly with the trio of actors moving cameras onstage to capture their faces and placing them in the graphic novel screen in real time while they’re also reciting long monologues – including conversations in many different languages which seems effortless.
Co-directors and writers, Andrew Quick and Peter Brooks clearly did immense amounts of research and it couldn’t be more evident how much time and thought went into this idea.
This is a great new perspective on the story of Dracula, adding a unique and contemporary twist to the production by showcasing the way Mina Harker was treated differently as a woman through the 1900s and using the innovative and effective graphic novel style to present the story.
Dracula: The Untold Story is a thrilling breath of fresh air for a story that has been revived many times before.
Dracula: The Untold Story opens at The Lowry, Salford Quays where it runs for 2 nights from 12-13 November 2021 before touring. The show is also available to watch digitally on demand. Age guidance 14+.
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