|Date||30th October 2015|
|Venue||Archbishop Sancroft High School|
|Type of Production||Play|
|Director||Bazil Leith (co. Juliet Lloyd)|
Author: Terry Rymer
A first time director more used to animation and visual effects..? (see programme). Well in many ways that is something which can benefit a show needing visual and technical imagery. So here we had the ideal combination, and despite his apparent insecurities with ‘live theatre’ we were entertained to an impressive mixture of tense dramatic moments and more than a touch of horror well suited to a show which encapsulates the atmosphere appropriate for a production presented over the Halloween weekend!
With well chosen atmospheric music we were immediately drawn into the harsh reality of Victorian mental institutions as a character called Renfield (Matt Bruty) is experiencing one of his frequent and ‘verbally illuminating’ bouts of schizophrenic behaviour. This was a role so well portrayed that you never doubted for a moment the voracity of his situation or indeed the harsh treatment to which he was exposed. His was a performance that will long live in the memory! His ‘Nurses’ Grice (Dawn Symonds) and Nisbett (Juliet Lloyd) were having far too much fun abusing Renfield and relished their somewhat bizarre, but of the age, care of their charge! They were able to convey just the right balance of humour and vindictive delight to his plight. This scene was in sharp contrast emotionally with our introduction to the seemingly sedate household of the Westermans which showed the sisters Mina (Yvette Tyler) and Lucy (Amy Nichols) each with their own individual persona. These two were superb in creating the dilemma of conflicting emotions and insecurities that were to be key to the development of the tale. Mina with mature and sincere concerns portrayed with style and confidence (Yvette is still only 15 y o!). Lucy was equally able to convey her insecurities, and with developing confidence, character traits to rival any professional interpretation. We had a Count Dracula ( Tony Winn) small in stature but large in his command of the subtle but developing menace of the vampire culture which, combined with his smooth and beguiling style with the ladies, was just right; avoiding the danger of stereotyping sometimes prevalent in such roles. He genuinely scared us! We had a real upper crust performance from Jonathon Harker (Joshua Gould) who as suitor to Mina was every inch the arrogant ‘toff with a heart’ and perhaps the wandering eye for the main chance! Men would empathise women may scoff! We enjoyed the humour in his aloofness! Arthur Seward (Morgan Heasley) was the calm voice of reason and counter to Arthur’s aloof persona.
Act 2 saw the arrival of ‘Dr’ Van Helsing (David Cumming) who showed the concern of one who knows the reality of the threat posed by Count Dracula and indeed was key to the eventual downfall of the evil Count as the final blow is struck, with rather too convincing blows, as the stake is driven through the heart of the tyrant Count. This scene was heard to draw audible gasps from the capacity audience! Playing in the round, as Harleston often do, added to the intimacy and therefore sharing of this moment! Other technical and lighting effects enhanced the enjoyment.
There were other superb cameos from Vampire Brides (Hatty Leith, Val May, Sarah Curtis) the latter also doubling up as a convincing Dr Goldman. Even Annie Chapman got a look in as Mrs Manners and a brief appearance of the child (Frankie Smith). All contributed to an enthralling and spine tingling experience. We went into the night with a cautious step! Great entertainment!