Dracula at the Blackpool Grand: An Enchanting, Sensuous Treat!
“How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.” – Bram Stoker, Dracula - 1897
. . . Well, that certainly wasn’t the case for us last night, whom this production terrified and entranced in equal measure!
Over a century after the novel was published, as a society we are still under the spell of the intoxicating Count Dracula, evidenced by the excitable bunch that flocked to Grand Theatre Blackpool last night. It is a tremendous achievement that over the course of countless representations of the world’s most enduring ghoul, that the Touring Consortium Theatre Company, under the direction of Eduard Lewis, deliver the tale in such a bold and gripping way.
The events portrayed in the play take place chronologically between Whitby, Yorkshire and Transylvania over six months during the 1890s, and purists among you will be pleased to hear that this production remains mostly true to the novel.
The music is unlike anything we’ve heard inside the iconic Blackpool Grand. The soundscapes are unnerving, and the clever nod to the Industrial Revolution with the grinding, clanking tones make it feel as though the loud noises are crushing you from every corner of the theatre (which they sort of are, due to advanced sound technology that makes for a REALLY dramatic end to the first act).
The sets were not overly detailed, but they were cleverly utilised. The slick, gliding transitions between Lucy’s house, the asylum and Dracula’s castle symbolise the Count’s smooth, seductive and predatory manner to great effect.
Our throats were dry and our nerves frayed from even before the show started due to some, um, surprising pre-show scares.
The decision to cast Cheryl Campbell (Call the Midwife’s chilly mother to our darling Chummy) as a gender-flipped Renfield was absolutely genius. She exhibited a palpable mania whilst delivering intricate lines of beautiful dialogue, interwoven with some great laughs.
Evan Milton’s Dr. Seward was a believably lovelorn character for whom the audience had great empathy, and Jessica Webber’s Lucy absolutely petrified us on several occasions, whilst seamlessly slipping in and out of her role as an innocent and playful debutante.
As it should be, Glen Fox absolutely stole the show in his portrayal of the looming Count Dracula. He brings an oppressive weight to the production, where you suspect (often correctly) that he’s always in the shadows. His performance is one of intense physicality, with him silently achieving great gymnastic feats during confrontation scenes, and the range in his voice work is impressive. In just one scene, the audience would experience syrupy, sensual romance lines, booming threats and primal snarls, all delivered with a consuming passion, avoiding camp-y stereotypes we've come to expect.
It would be remiss to write our thoughts about this show without making reference to the fantastic addition of illusions by Ben Hart which provide a suitably paranormal chill. However, we don’t want to spoil the show, so just make sure you go and see for yourself!
This production will especially appeal to those who us who cheerfully considered how great we’d look in a top hat or bustle skirt following Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 incarnation of Dracula, with its heady blend of sensuality and menace (particularly if you enjoyed Anthony Hopkins’ performance, as Philip Bretherton is a dead ringer). The play doesn’t hold back on the . . . *ahem* . . . amorous scenes that had contemporary Victorians aghast, so ensure your theatre companions are 16+ and all are suitably equipped with a hand fan.
The show is being staged at the fabulous Blackpool Grand Theatre until the 15th of November. Get tickets here, and be sure to take sufficient protection against evil (we here a garlic necklace will do it).