Friday, 17 October 2014

Dracula @ Contact, 10.10.14

With Halloween almost here and a new film version recently released Dracula is currently in the public consciousness. What better time, then, for a new tour of The Mark Bruce Company's adaptation, a dance performance that follows Bram Stoker's story but throws in a few original ideas to keep the whole thing fresh.

For those unfamiliar, Stoker's Dracula is split neatly in two. First, the hero Jonathan (performed here by Wayne Parsons) travels to Transylvania to help the Count purchase of a new home in England. Unaware of his host's evil intentions Jonathan is trapped for a time in his mansion, eventually making his escape. Meanwhile the Count sales to England to take up his new residence and spread an army of the undead. In the second half our hero and the count each try to ensnare the other, building to a final confrontation between good and evil.

Not bound by one particular style or approach, choreographer Mark Bruce has the freedom to pick and choose from the entire dance cannon, matching technique to mood. For example, in a love scene he borrows from ballet, the perfect approach to illustrate the first flowering of affection. Later on, when Dracula is trying to pull the wool over Jonathan's eyes, a vaudeville tap is adapted, its slapstick silliness succinctly showing the character's intentions. Each of these is then stitched into a whole that hangs together, an impressive feat indeed. The dancers delivered on the promise of these ideas, showing great versatility and characterisation in doing so. Jonathan Goddard in particular stood out as a muscular and menacing Dracula, displaying both his human and animalistic elements.

Mood is very important in a piece such as this; it is the otherworldly, ungodly essence of Dracula that is so disturbing, and this has to be conveyed in the staging, lighting and sound as well as through movement. The company achieved this by using unusual lighting angles, keeping much of the stage in shadow, and by building a set that gives an impression of darkness and depth. The musical score also worked very well, with gothic classical mixing with eastern european strings. The production sticks closely to the original story, and - so long as you have read the book - is fairly easy to follow. However, it could be tricky for someone unfamiliar with the plot, so I would recommend doing a bit of research in advance of seeing the show.

This dance version of Dracula has drama, diversity and depth, and is a great evening out for first-timers and old-hands alike. If you get the chance go and see it for yourself, and prepare to be scared.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Images: Courtesy of The Mark Bruce Company

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