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Dracula @ Adelaide Festival Centre Review

  • Written by  Trista Coulter
  • Friday, 08 September 2017 21:54
Published in Arts News  
|   Tagged under   
His story has haunted the imagination of generations of readers and movie goers alike; and now it's Adelaide’s turn to rediscover the frightening beauty of Bram Stoker’s gothic horror ‘Dracula’.

Beautifully reimagined and powerfully performed by members of renowned theatre company shake & stir, ‘Dracula’ is an epic tale of good versus evil, damnation and redemption, love and lust which takes viewers on a journey from the ancient and superstitious lands of Europe to the brimming streets of Victorian era London.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the dimly lit stage; where a single chair and small table stood bathed in the eerie glow of a dim blue light which shone, almost pitifully through from a balcony window. The scene was both beautiful and haunting and it perfectly set the mood for the visual feast that was to come. This stunning production features a meticulously designed revolving stage which serves as everything from a rickety stage coach to the vast empty halls of Castle Dracula and even the bowels of a doomed cargo ship (to name just a few). Each dramatic scene is played out against a soundtrack of eerie music, booming thunder claps, the howls of vicious wolves and the ominous screams of unseen women; while ghostly faces and disembodied hands rise from the swirling smoke covering the stage.

Much of the action plays out in near total darkness, with soft blue, white and yellow lighting doing little to lift the palpable sense of foreboding in the room. This allows the actors to bring a whole new level of fear and excitement to the story which culminates in a skilfully executed (and shockingly realistic) bloody final battle between Dracula and our heroes.

With his authentic Transylvanian accent and odd mannerisms actor Nick Skubij commands your attention as Dracula and his dramatic entrance on stage made more than a few audience members jump in their seats. With flowing black cape and long blonde hair Skubij bears a striking resemblance to Lucius Malfoy (for the 'Harry Potter' fans out there) but his appearance changes as he drinks and drains his way across Europe and London in a series of seductive scenes which perfectly capture the gothic beauty of this dark and insidious tale. Renewed by the vitality of his victims' blood, Dracula rises from the darkness as the ultimate bad boy – clad in tight leather with short cropped hair and this new, edgier look is frighteningly alluring.

Michael Wahr stars as the ill-fated Jonathan Harker and he handles the complexity of his character with ease, delivering a powerful performance which allows the audience to bear witness to the destruction and ultimate redemption of a young man pushed to the edge of madness. Nelle Lee is equally impressive as Harker’s fiancée Mina while David Whitney switches effortlessly between his roles as the lunatic Renfield and doctor-turned-vampire hunter Van Helsing. Adele Querol and Ross Balbuziente round off this incredibly talented cast as the spirited Lucy and unlikely hero Jack Seward.

A fang-tastic adventure which is sure to delight, ‘Dracula’ lives up to the hype, sucking you in (no pun intended) and holding you in a vice-like grip until the final, explosive moments. Visually stunning and expertly crafted it’s easy to see why this production has earned rave reviews and if you are only going to see one play this year, I urge you to make sure it’s this one.

‘Dracula’ plays at the Space Theatre until 16 September and Barossa Convention Centre on 20 September.

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