Fangs that go ha ha in the night

dracula and victim

Dracula: the Kisses

Mac Birmingham

**

TURNING Bram Stoker’s Dracula into a comedy is a bit of a tall order.  Here we have one of the most hideous creatures in literature – a vampire who sucks the life blood – but Scary Little Girls have decided this is ripe material for a farce.

Had the company gone for all-out comedy with Dracula: The Kisses then it could have worked really well. After all, there is so much familiar material in Dracula which could be lampooned.

But one of the problems here is that this production isn’t quite sure whether it wants to be horror or farce.  Instead it is a jumble of giggles and gore which never quite seems to find its way.

Director Helen Tennison and writer Rebecca Mordan have thrown so much into the mix that at times it can be hard to determine quite what is going on – or why.

The show, which coincides at Birmingham’s mac with Halloween, follows Stoker’s novel pretty faithfully. Its largest adaptation is that all of the characters are played by women but here again is another missed opportunity.

The company, whose stated aim is to be a ‘feminist production hub’ could have done so much more to look at male and female identity, questions of power and dominance or sexuality across gender roles. Instead they rely on clumsy and somewhat obvious jokes. Is comparing blood transfusion with sexual climax really the best we can do?

It doesn’t help that Illona Linthwaite’s Dracula is never clearly defined. She stalks around the stage attempting to be menacing and speaking with a faux Transylvanian accent while lifting her fist every now and then to be threatening but the truth is she isn’t really scary at all. In fact if she knocked at your window at night I can’t help but think she’d be more likely to ask for a sherry than a pint or two of blood.

There are some strong characterisations. Mary Woodvine’s Jonathan Harker is seen to descend from sanity into madness by his experiences in Dracula’s castle while Bec Applebee is suitably manic as the mad Renfield.

Bobbi O’Callaghan moves effectively from the slightly naïve Lucy Westenra to a spitting vampire although why she spends much of the second half still wandering around the stage with a stake stuck in her heart remained a mystery to me.

Shazz Andrew takes on the role of a particularly quirky Van Helsing with a weird accent and penchant for patting women on the backside.

Ultimately this is quite a frustrating production. A clearer purpose, tighter direction and some reined-in characterisation could have made Dracula: The Kisses so much stronger. To 31-10-14.

Diane Parkes

30-10-14 

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