Review: Dracula at Leeds Playhouse

If you’re looking for an evening of drama, thrilling horror, seduction and an intriguing storyline you won’t be disappointed by Dracula.

On behalf of Leeds Living, I was lucky enough to be invited along to review the Halloween production of Dracula, performed by Northern Ballet and directed by David Nixon OBE.  It was an evening of gothic-liberating passion and dramatic suspense.

When I was handed my programme for the performance, I was intrigued to read about the development of the show and how the Halloween story, Dracula, had made its way to the world of ballet. Nixon writes, ‘the starting point for the creation of Dracula was the duet between Mina and Dracula, where they give in to their feelings of unequivocal love.’ It’s interesting to note that the whole show was built around one duet. The rest just seemed to fall into place. This was definitely obvious throughout the whole performance as each scene led on to the next so fluidly, like a well-oiled machine of elegance and grace.

Javier Torres as Dracula and Abigail Prudames as Mina

There’s confrontation, seduction, rejection and retribution throughout both acts and we were often left clutching the edges of our seats.

Joseph Taylor as Dr Seward and Kevin Poeung as Renfield

The ballet gives little time for thought as each scene flows so seamlessly and quickly into the next. The momentum of the performance keeps the audience in suspense. However, when I had chance before each act, I quickly scanned ‘the story’ section of the programme so I had a better understanding of what each scene was expressing through the technical choreography and the dancers’ emotive movement.

We’re taken on a journey that follows Dracula; a vampire who lives in a crumbling castle in the mountains of Transylvania and Mina; a young girl who is unconditionally drawn to Dracula, though she should be repulsed. They fall in love through a complicated and dramatic state of affairs. Lucy, Mina’s best friend, is seduced by Dracula’s allure and becomes the first victim of his blood-sucking thirst. Lucy’s previously foreshadowed death becomes a reality as Dracula’s fangs sink into her neck and she shudders with ecstasy as she is turned by Dracula.

Joseph Taylor as Dr Seward and Antoinette Brooks Daw as Lucy

Act 2 is dominated by emotion – from grieving, to love, to anger, to betrayal and to suicide. We’re taken on a rollercoaster of emotional turmoil. I was even questioning myself, asking whose side I was actually on? However, I’m not going to give too much away of the plot line, as you’ll have to see the performance for yourself to understand just how juxtaposed each scene is to the next and how conflicted your emotions can become when watching the performance.

Joseph Taylor as Dr Seward and Antoinette Brooks Daw as Lucy

The cast was unbelievable. Something I love about ballets like Dracula, is that there’s never just one lead character. Not only were we blessed with the elegance and grace of Mina (Abigail Prudames) throughout the show, but we also experienced a raw and dynamic performance from Lucy (Antoinette Brooks-Daw).  Simultaneously, Count Dracula (Javier Torres) brought the gothic prowess to the stage and Renfield (Kevin Poeung) was whacky and wonderful. I found myself not knowing where to look as there were so many climatic aspects to the performance. They were
technically perfect, synchronized to a T, with every lift, kick and trick looking effortless. The way the women transitioned from body to body, as though there was no effort required was phenomenal, even more so when you think about how gruelling the rehearsal period must have been to reach perfection.

Javier Torres as Dracula

The costumes were exquisite. From the infamous cape of Dracula to the seductive white dress that Mina wore in the Love scene – each piece was beautifully crafted to such a high quality. The movement of the material just added to the smooth and ethereal atmosphere. Each costume conjures up the suppression and morality of Victorian society, whilst portraying each character’s persona perfectly. Moreover, the lighting and prop design was perfectly crafted to
keep us guessing, eyes eager to take in every detail,  especially when the cage in which Renfield is trapped was lowering down from the ceiling to herald his appearances.

Kevin Poeung as Renfield

After being left in suspense for so long, the whole piece came together during the final scene as the story ended in tragedy.  Overall, I was slightly overawed by the performance as the curtains closed.  I can’t think of better entertainment for this spooky Halloween time of year.

Riku Ito as Old Dracula

Photographs by Emma Kauldhar.  Feature photograph is Javier Torres as Dracula.

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