Yesterday I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Felixstowe’s Two Sisters Arts Centre to see the play Dracula’s Guest, an adaption of works by Bram Stoker . The play, produced by Brother Wolf Productions starred award-winning actor James Hyland, who wrote the adaption, and also Ashton Spear. I was so impressed!
As I said on their page, it was pure gothic spectacle – very ‘Webster’. Dark, brooding, ironic, hyperbolic, brilliant! It was unnerving from the moment I stepped in to hear the creepy music box tinkling, and Renfield shivering on stage, looking straitjacketed, beside a rotting pig’s head. I was literally on the edge of my seat – and I do mean literally- leaning forward and intensely fixed on every twitch, snarl and spurt of blood! I managed to escape without a splash even though I was in the front row. I’ll be blogging about it later and many thanks to Suzanne Hawkes at Two Sisters Arts Centre in Felixstowe for the perfect spot to perform this play. Hannibal Lector hasn’t nothing on James Hyland’s psychopathic Dracula and the Jekyll to Hyde transformation of Renfield was so disturbing and animalistic that I forgot to drink my wine!
The ‘death-dance’ was one of the memorably disturbing parts, both erotic and horribly brutal. Hyland had slowly built up to this climactic moment from a calm and rational psychopath, which was wholly realistic, showing us glimmers of his instability, to his violent explosive darker self. I also particularly enjoyed the brilliance of his projected whisper, which was so sinister I physically recoiled.
Also brilliant was the animalistic snarling and snapping from both actors, and especially Spear’s total loss of control as he lusted after rotten flesh and blood. It was, in short, overwhelming to witness. And more than a little messy! I did fear for Spear’s nose, wincing as ‘The Count’ pulled it quite roughly, and also his poor bruises as he was thrown to the floor. It didn’t look to gentle to me. But it certainly had the audience on edge.
When the tables turned, the cowed and abused Renfield reaches his limit, turning to enraged abuser and killer. In the final terrifying climax, I felt like I had travelled back in time – I was a Jacobean spectator watching a Websterian revenge and horror fest. And to be honest, I had already found myself sympathising a little with the Count in that way the psychopath always begins to convince you his argument is right – was his anger justified? There were no women in this play, but the fate of a woman was seemingly at the centre of Dracula’s rage. Did his past justify his actions towards Renfield? It might explain it at least…
In this production, as in Stoker’s novel, ideas about Imperialism, revenge, sexual repression, salvation, madness and redemption are explored. Renfield gives Dracula his salvation, but continues the endless vampiric cycle. As in the best gothic tales, we are forced to confront the possibility of ‘evil’ being within all and any of us. I felt an extraordinary sense of catharsis at the end, and that wine was much needed. I could say so much more – but this is not an academic essay – my best advice is to go and see it for yourself.
However, remember to eat first though, I didn’t fancy a lot of food later!