Pictured rom left: The cast of Dracula - Tim Dashwood, Ashlee Lollback, Nelle Lee, Nick Skubij, David Whitney and Ross Balbuziente. Photo by Deanne Scott. (More after party shots at the end of the review.)
By Bram Stoker
Adapted by shake&stir
shake&stir Theatre Company - Qpac Production
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: August 13-September 3. Duration 95 minutes without interval; Bookings QTIX 136246 or www.qpac.com.au
The opening night audience at Dracula were both shaken and stirred by this eye-popping production. This now experienced team of highly talented and imaginative theatre creators has come up with a show that blows the mind in every aspect.
The stage was filled with swirling mist and dark shadows. And the Victorian era gas light illumination, searing bolts of lightning, a constantly revolving set with spiral staircase, dingy alleyways, castle walls, dungeons, and deep cellars created a melodramatic atmosphere of genuine dread and comfortable fear as the gasps from the audience proved.
Me? I loved it and was completely drawn into the tale of a dark battle between good and evil, despite the fact that I know the story so well.
Designer Josh McIntosh, lighting designer Jason Glenright, sound man and composer Guy Webster and costume designer Leigh Buchannan have worked together often before and obviously have a strong rapport, but never in the past have they combined to such stunning effect.
They created a movie on stage in which the action never slowed, the tension stayed high and the scenes were seamlessly linked. The actors used precision timing to move from one location to the next and never once faltered in what was an amazing piece of direction from Michael Futcher.
He managed to create genuine fear for the characters which was quite an accomplishment coming from such a melodramatic text.
We genuinely implored Mina, beautifully played by Nelle Lee, not to open her window and mentally begged her not to hand over her necklace to the deranged Renfield and inwardly panicked when Dracula turned his deadly charm onto her in his attempt to make her his vampire wife. It was powerful stuff indeed.
On top of that the actors created absolutely believable characters from the pages of Bram Stoker’s 19th century Gothic masterpiece. To do this the company researched every bit of vampire lore from the grainy remnants of the original Dracula movie Nosferatu, through Hammer Horror and the TV shows like Buffy and Twilight Zone to create ancient and modern versions of the vampire Count.
Nick Skubij was just brilliant as the evil Dracula. He began as a long-haired Transylvanian Nosferatu with his cape and mysterious movements as he floated, or so it seems from place ro place. He was ancient evil personified as he seduced Lucy and attacked Jonathan Harker and then in London he was a more modern jeans-and-jacketed blonde clone of Spike from Buffy. But even then he exuded evil.
The naïve Jonathan Harker, the man who was sent to the Dracula castle simply to conclude a real estate deal and was held captive by the Count was very nicely played by Tim Dashwood. He controlled the melodrama and displayed well the full range of emotions his character experienced.
Ashlee Lollback was Lucy and she transformed beautifully from the silly flighty young woman into the desperate Dracula infected vampire who screamed for a merciful death and release from her living nightmare.
Lucy’s jilted lover, the good and honest doctor Jack Saward was played solidly by Ross Balbuziente and a nicely Germanic Van Helsing was played by David Whitney. Together they told the captivating story and earned a triple curtain call.
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.
Cast and crew.
Blood-themed cupcakes for the guests
LNP member for Mansfield Ian Walker, wife Heather and Eric Scott
Director Michael Futcher with Ross Balbulziente
Costume designer Leigh Buchannan with Barbara Lowing
Ross, Nelle and Eric
Photos by Deanne Scott