The Genesian Theatre company’s production of Dracula is an unapologetic meeting of melodrama and old school horror, with a hardworking cast and some genuine jump scares to boot.
The Genesian Theatre’s home – a small yet impressive church building dating back to 1868, which houses a stage laden in rich red velvet curtains and backlit by stained glass windows – funnily enough makes for a great place to stage Dracula.
A young English solicitor, Jonathan Harker (Dimitri Armatas), is hired by an usual and exotic European count (Daniel D’Amico as Dracula) to facilitate his migration to England. However Harker’s employment soon turns to imprisonment, and it becomes apparent that the Count is in fact an ancient horror about to be unleashed on London. Back home Harker’s fiancé Mina (Cassady Maddox) and bosom friend Lucy (Madeline Boyle) are ripped from their lustful day dreaming by dark forces, meanwhile Renfield (Cormac James) a lunatic under the charge of Dr. John Seward (Nathan Bennett), one of Lucy’s friend-zoned suitors, bellows for his ‘master’s’ impending arrival.
American playwright Steven Dietz’ 1996 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula could be mistaken for something much more ancient, characters who speak in prose-like verse are confronted with moral dilemmas and genuine terrors. Madness and sanity, science and the supernatural, social proprieties and the primal – a flurry of Victorian era dilemmas clash.
Admittedly, the first half grew a little droll for this reviewer – the foreboding series of events occasionally shocked to life by elements like roaring sound installations, or Lucy’s startling, impassioned erotic outbursts as the dark power of Dracula calls to her. Act 2 sees an exciting shift, as the audience are rewarded for the foreshadowing and plot building in the previous act.
The theatrics amp up – the actors wholly embrace the newfound sense of urgency and all the characters become insurmountably more interesting; the unique theatre house is used to it’s best abilities, actors emerging from the back of the theatre and skirting the audience on their way back into the action; the set becomes surprisingly dynamic as trap doors and coffins spring out seemingly from nowhere.
Dracula is a worthy outing for fans of vintage horror, vampires, and the elevating spirit of independent, community theatre. (AM)
Until Dec 3; Fri + Sat 8pm, Sun 4.30pm. Genesian Theatre, 430 Kent St, Sydney. $25-$30. Tickets & info: www.genesiantheatre.com.au