Fallen Angel Theatre


White Bear Theatre

Review by Lottie Morris - Musical Stages Magazine


            Dracula, Bram Stoker’s 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 don’t 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 Stoker’s 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 UK sitting room, we are transported to all corners of Europe with a pace and style that hardly ever lets up. His attention to detail with text and delivery, along with how far to allow ‘high drama’ to unfold without it falling into laughable melodrama is admirable, as are the performances he has drawn out from his twelve-strong cast. Complementing this meticulous attention to the book is intelligent movement direction from Omar F. Okai, who uses the music and pace to enhance the fluidity of the piece, without ever encroaching on either the development of the story or the limitations of the space. This is most effectively seen in the seduction scene, where the indomitable Jonathan Harker, played with unwavering conviction and pace by Duncan Wigman, is seduced by three vivacious vampire women (Holly Sands, Holly Vernon-Harcourt and Vicky Williamson),

            Justin Arienti’s 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 Pomeroy’s costumes, despite obvious budgetary limitations, add the finishing touches to Dracula’s 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 Loveless’s 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


More Dracula Reviews



Forthcoming Fallen Angel production

The Remains of the Day - Musical

Alex Loveless' musical adaptation of the novel by

Kazuro Ishiguro

directed by Chris Loveless

Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize-winning novel
The Remains of the Day
will premiere as a stage musical in London in 2010.