Fallen Angel Theatre
White Bear Theatre
Review by Lottie Morris - Musical Stages
- Musical Stages Magazine
Dracula, Bram Stokers iconic novel, has seen so many adaptations and interpretations over the years that one could justifiably pose the question; do we need one more?. So many productions have completely missed the mark in the past, could it be that there seems to be an unspoken quest with creatives, many of whom are in the field of musical theatre, to strive to get it just right. I can count at least four versions in recent years that have left me so utterly disappointed and dissatisfied when the final curtain falls, that I hope and pray I dont have to sit through yet another. That said, after watching the latest offering at the White Bear Theatre, I think that relative newcomer, Alex Loveless, might just have hit the mark.
Loveless, who, not only adapted the book from Stokers novel but also wrote both the music and lyrics, has returned to the original text, focusing on the characters and their personal relationships. Through the huge range of themes and issues raised in the text, Loveless has focused on how, these individuals, through fate and circumstances, were catapulted into a nightmare world that none of them would, or could, have ever imagined possible. It is a claustrophobic and terrifying world where one wonders if there will ever be an end to the misery and suffering that overwhelms those involved. It is this attention to the human aspect that makes this version by far the most successful that I have seen to date.
The epic style he has adopted works beautifully with the presentation of text through diary form, as the original work was written; this provides a useful structure to build this interpretation around. What is also effective, is the cinematic style of underscoring the dialogue, coupled with a number of memorable songs (at last someone writes a tune you can remember the following morning), giving the feeling of a sung through musical. This device helps to unify what is, in essence, an extremely fragmented story.
With this in mind credit has to be given to Musical Director Neil MacDonald, who at one electric piano, plays non-stop throughout the entire two hours, accompanied, at times, by two cast members on the cello and guitar. Occasionally,
one felt that more colour and warmth would have been beneficial in the delivery of the music if only to provide a greater difference in mood, but obviously this is a funding issue and should the piece develop further, additional arrangements, both musically and with the harmonies could happen.
Directed by Chris Loveless, brother of Alex, there is a complete believability of
the events that unfold. In the performing space that is the White Bear, probably no larger
than twice the size of a standard
Justin Arientis set, simple in its premise, a curved wall of painted plastic corrugation with three gauze covered doorways, is one of the most sensitive and appropriate designs I have seen at the theatre, it wraps itself around the audience, physically drawing you into the story. Lighting designer Cristina De La Paz manages, with only 18 lamps (I counted them) to effectively complement the piece, giving a feeling of inescapable claustrophobia, whilst Christina Pomeroys costumes, despite obvious budgetary limitations, add the finishing touches to Draculas high production values.
Dracula himself is played by the impressive Leigh Jones, whose presence never leaves the stage for one moment. There is strong support from Annabel King as Mina Murray; Joanna Hickman as Lucy Westenra, Mario Christofides as Dr. John Seward, Russell Anthony as Arthur Holmwood, Jamie Addleton as Quincey P. Morris and a particularly noteworthy performance comes from Oliver Hume as Van Helsing, who plays with conviction and sensibility, rather than many of the rather laughable previous incarnations. I must also give a special mention to Richard Warrick as Renfield, who with depth and humour never once falls into the realms of a clichéd insane patient.
Alex Lovelesss Dracula is an intelligent and memorable interpretation of the Stoker novel, a feat that has eluded many of those who have tried before him. One hopes that this new musical will capture the attention of those in a position to develop the piece as it is one of few new works that truly does have potential to go further.
Dracula at The White Bear Theatre, The White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road London SE11 4DJ until Sunday November 23. Box Office: 020 7793 9193
Alex Loveless' musical adaptation of the novel by
directed by Chris Loveless
Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize-winning novel