Theatre Review: Bram Stroker’s Dracula is reinvented by Shake and Stir (Performances in Adelaide to 16th September)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been interpreted many times over the years on stage and screen. This time, Queensland based Shake and Stir Theatre Company have breathed new life into the ageless classic.

A single lit window on a darkened stage is the only clue to what is to come. There are shocks a plenty – with the first crash of thunder there is an audible gasp of horror throughout the audience, establishing a tension which remains for the whole show.

The opening scene has Jonathon Harker (played by Michael Wahr) arriving at the Dracula castle to conduct a simple land transaction. Despite the dire warnings of his travelling companions, he is naively upbeat about his visit. The dramatic entrance of Dracula (Nick Skubij) is perfect, as we watch the innocent Jonathon drawn deeper into Dracula’s lair. The beautifully crafted stage features a rotating staircase, perfect for creating the illusion of space and allows the play to be set in a number of locations seamlessly.

The dramatic lighting and understated music also allow the focus to switch from Dracula’s lair, back to the hometown, in a way that is suitably cinematic. Back home, Jonathon’s fiancé Mina (Nelle Lee) patiently awaits his overdue return, while her friend Lucy (Adele Querol) announces that she is breaking off her engagement to Jack Seward (Ross Balbuziente).

The action shifts back and forth with Jonathon becoming increasingly tormented by his captor, and Jack’s work with his mental patients. This includes Renfield (David Whitney), who has a fascination with eating insects and birds to appease his master.
David Whitney has a dual role as Van Helsing, who is called upon to rid the evil from Mina.

Director Michael Futcher has created a drama that is authentic to the spirit of Dracula with a moody dark set, costuming that suits the period and strong performances from the entire cast. Dracula is the original horror story and this adaption does the classic text justice. It will have you on the edge of your seat for the entire performance.

Dracula runs at the Adelaide Festival Centre until September 16th.

Featured image by Dylan Evans. The reviewer attended the performance on 7th September.