Blackeyed Theatre invites you in to see their rendition of Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula. The well-known tale is brought once more to the stage by the company of five actors. Everyone flits between their multiple roles with so much ease it is as simple as a change of hair or coat.
It is a delight when you hear the rattling of chains, Will Bryant becoming at once the dramatic and crazed inmate Renfield after a scene as the reserved Jonathan Harker. Paul Kevin Taylor keeps you on edge doubling up as the work-driven Professor Van Helsing and the alluring grand vampire himself. Rachel Winters and Katherine Gibson excel as Harker's wife Mina and the ill fated Lucy Westenra respectively.
And with the actors being on stage at all times, even whilst they were blending in as part of the library or a window, you still feel their main characters coming through. Lucy and Dracula are hardly seen together, but when their actors are stood near each other in other scenes you still feel the pull between them. Lighting and a well designed, industrial feeling set, along with the use of narrative and voiced thoughts set us into the scenes which carry through with ease and a fast pace.
Costumes by Jenny Lethbridge open up the Victorian era with brightly coloured neckties and bold, layered dresses.
The use of sound is most effective, with the haunting voices of Winters and Gibson repeating throughout to build up the character's journeys. Instruments- which the cast play themselves, silent cinema and shadows aid in taking us on a coach ride through Europe, seeing a ship sailing through a storm and witnessing a beheading. To use so many techniques, though they are all styles that were being used with the public when the novel was being written, could still come across as choppy and disjointed, but it all gels together into a cohesive piece, which when all put together creates moments of tension, suspense, and indeed amusement. A faithful and compelling adaptation that flows from beginning to end.
But all in all this is an actor led piece with a cast that clearly loves the story, and Stoker's Dracula is still as fresh as the day it was conceived with new, inspired performances like this granting it new life.