Review - shake&stir’s Dracula 2017: still full of chills and thrills
Above: Dying with indignity: David Whitney and Ross Balbuziente put an end to Adele Querol's vampire antics. Below right: Dracula (Nick Skubij) meets Jonathan (Michael Wahr).
Deanne Scott's after party shots follow the review.
By Bram Stoker
Adapted by shake&stir
shake&stir Theatre Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: August 17-September 3. Running time 100 minutes without interval. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or 136 246.
When I saw the premier of this show back in 2015 I said: “I have enjoyed all of shake&stir productions, but this one tops the lot. It is a play that stays in the mind for long after the 95 minutes of nonstop action has ended and even begs a second viewing.”
Well I got the second viewing this week and my opinion hasn’t changed. It was still filled with thrills and chills and nonstop action, although with a little more leaning toward the odd melodrama joke when the text needed it.
The cast still blew the minds of a wildly enthusiastic audience.
Where this amazing company finds the energy I don’t know, but, after seven gruelling months of touring they brought Dracula back to Brisbane for second season, with director Michael Futcher there to add any necessary tightening, and never flagged for a second.
Once again it was a magnificent light and sound show with rumbling thunder, bolts of lightning that crashed loudly enough to bring gasps of fear from the audience Then there was swirling mists, dark shadows and dim lantern light that added suspense to the scenes. Add to this a constantly revolving set with spiral staircase, dingy alleyways, castle walls, dungeons, and deep cellars and you have a magical and eerie backdrop.
There was also blood by the bucketful. So much in fact, that people on the front row of the newly renovated Cremorne Theatre copped a mild drenching. There were a couple of blood spattered shirts at the after party upstairs at The Charming Squire hostelry across the road from QPAC.
Designer Josh McIntosh, lighting designer Jason Glenright, sound man and composer Guy Webster and costume designer Leigh Buchannan combined with stunning effect.
There were cast changes from the original, Adele Querol played the feckless Lucy; she turned very nicely from the scatter-brained girl into the blood-loving vampire - and she died absolutely magnificently. Michael Wahr replaced Tim Dashwood as the naïve Jonathan Harker, the man who was sent to the Dracula castle to conclude a real estate deal and was sucked into the Count’s life, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Nelle Lee was back as the lovelorn but brave Mina, Jonathan’s fiancé and Ross Balbuziente reprised Lucy’s jilted lover the good doctor Jack Seward. David Whitney was again Von Helsing and the fly-eating Renfield
Nick Skubij was also back as the evil Dracula. He began as an old long-haired Transylvanian with his cape and air of sinister menace. He was nicely evil with a soft voice that was projected through speakers. After successfully draining the blood of Jonathan and Lucy he regained his lost youth and turned up in London as a debonair young man who wore lots of leather.
There was no faulting the actors. There were also times when you would swear there was a cast of thousands as extra characters appeared, sometimes talking sometimes not. There were what seemed like groups of gypsies, townsfolk and a couple of insane vampire beauties.
The cast used body language and simple covering costumes to create this illusion; either that or they did a bit of shape-shifting during the play! It was very cleverly and effectively created.
After this season ends they are back on the roads for the final legs of the journey – to Adelaide and then the Barossa Valley where I am sure they will find rime for well-earned bit of R and R.
New cast members Michael Wahr and Adele Querol
Director Michael Futcher and David Whitney.
Costume designer Leigh Buchannan with opera singer Emily Burke.
Photos: Deanne Scott