Running at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley is a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Written by Jenny King, the play is an adaptation of the thriller that completely defined a genre. Promoted as a ‘spine-chilling’ production that will keep you on the edge of your seat, the play somehow falls short of instilling a real sense of fear into the audience. That is not to say that the atmosphere does not encapsulate the gothic horror of Stoker’s Transylvania, but overall the production feels more light-hearted than terrifying.
Glen Fox as Count Dracula is convincing, yet very traditional in his depiction. He portrays the gothic figure as is expected, a cloaked figure emerging from the shadows in a smoky haze. However, there was more than one moment where a dramatic entrance or line of dialogue evoked laughter from the audience. His performance is entertaining, but where feelings of panic and terror should rightfully ensue, often his appearance onstage felt strangely comedic. Nevertheless attempting to play a convincing Vampire onstage is a feat in itself. Often depicted as either horrifying or hilarious, unfortunately, Fox’s Dracula falls somewhere between the two.
The whole cast undeniably approaches this piece with passion and boundless energy, however, in certain scenes throughout the play their lines of dialogue often feel over-exaggerated. Olivia Swann (Mina Murray) stands out amongst the cast, and despite this being her professional stage debut, her performance feels naturalistic and particularly strong. In the second act we witness the Count, filled with undisguised lust, forcefully enter Mina’s room where she is sleeping. In the following scene, the fear that Swann conveys is undoubtedly one of the most terrifying moments in the play.
The special effects are the defining feature of this production. Lighting designer Ben Cracknell and sound designer Paul Ewing work in perfect harmony to create a compelling atmosphere, the cracks of thunder and bursts of light genuinely making you twitch in your seat. Strobe lighting is used effectively to magnify scene changes and reveal certain moments onstage. However, it would have been wonderful to have felt that heightened tension and emotion throughout the whole production. Illusionist Ben Hart also adds a certain flair to this adaptation, the audience cheering as the count seems to completely vanish onstage.
There are moments in the play where fear creeps in, the audience is plunged into darkness, or the Count taunts his next victim. But there is a lingering feeling of wanting something darker, something with more emotional depth. There are glimpses here and there, but nothing concrete. Dracula is an entertaining production, especially as we approach Halloween, but not the terrifying or chilling endeavour it seems to suggest.