Reviewed by Matt Forrest
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
There have been many riffs on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Audiences still can’t get enough of the bloodthirsty Count, despite him being with us for well over 120 years, there is still an insatiable appetite for more! It is now the turn of Leeds Playhouse and collaborators, Andrew Quick, Peter Brooks and Simon Wainwright to give their take with Dracula: The Untold Story.
Set in London, 1965, New Years Eve to be precise, the capital is holding a double celebration, the changing of the year, as well as an exhibition at the British Museum to mark the destruction of Dracula. However, not everyone is in the mood for a party. As a mutilated cadaver is discovered, a young lady walks into a police station claiming responsibility for the murder; that women is Mina Harker, and not only is she there to unburden her guilt over this gruesome turn of events, but also a killing a spree that has lasted nearly 70 years.
Harker (Riana Duce) tells her story to an intrigued WPC Williams ( Adela Rajnović) and a rather sceptical DS Donaldson (Matt Prendergast). Through Mina, we learn that an encounter with Dracula has led to her gaining superpowers, not aging, an acute sense of smell, vision, the ability to move at speed and visions of the future to see the evil that man can do. She uses her supernatural powers to hunt down the likes of Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler before they can commit mass genocide.
There is a great deal to admire about this production; it’s innovative, entertaining and a feast for the eyes. Performed like a graphic novel, the three actors perform in front of a projection screen. It’s very much a dual performance as the actors are performing to both the audience and the camera, to give us a live action comic strip, which is as captivating as it is visually stunning.
The influences of Frank Miller’s Sin City and the 1922 film, Nosferatu are clear and add an authenticity to this ambitious production.
The cast are in fine form with Duce giving a strong central performance, she exudes passion, strength and guilt from the outset and it’s because of this you fully invest in the production’s premise. She is skillfully supported by Rajnović and Prendergast who play multiple roles throughout. All three demonstrate a gift for language and dialects with Russian, French and Italian used flawlessly throughout.
Dracula: The Untold Story is bold, fun, captivating and skillfully marries live performance with digital technology to tell the classic story of good confronting evil. However, it’s the dilemma of how that fight can take its toll on the protagonist that is most intriguing. It is often said that if the hero lives long enough they see themselves become the villain…..Is this the case for Mina Harker?
Further information & the opportunity to watch at online can be found here.