Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been told many times over the years, in film, theatre and radio productions, so to look for a different take on the classic story is always a challenge.
This joint production by the Mercury Theatre, Colchester and the Fitzrovia Radio Hour take this challenge and producse a highly entertaining and hilarious production – while turning it into a comedy the story does stay true to the original book.
It’s a play about a play, a theatre production about a radio production. The Fitzrovia Company were formed in 2008 and have established themselves as experts in recreating radio plays in the style of the 1930s and 40s.
So the stage setting is actually a BBC radio studio of the 40s. We, the audience are the studio audience, invited to watch this live “broadcast” of Dracula.
While we await the start of the performance we are entertained by ‘current popular music’ performed on the piano. Mr Starkey arrives to welcome us and explain the workings of radio drama, he demonstrates how sound effects are created, scraping a flowerpot on a floor tile to simulate a tomb door opening and other clever aural tricks that add atmosphere to the play and allow the listeners to believe they are in a tomb or other exotic location.
As the minutes tick away to transmission time, the thespians make their entrances, an elderly character actress, a dashing matinee idol, a young very English actress (who has a rather large crush on the leading man). The production also boosts a real Count in the title role.
The performances of all the characters is faultless, the added aural illusions for the Special Effects are fascinating and sometimes a little messy (the smell of melon fills the auditorium at one point) and there’s a final and slightly different twist.
This has to be the funniest play that this reviewer has seen this year and I genuinely had tears of laughter running down my face. If you are cautious about going out on a dark cold night I can guarantee that buying a ticket and going to the Mercury will be money well spent, just keep out of the shadows.
• Dracula is at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 16th November. Box office 01206 573948. Website: www.mercurytheatre.co.uk
Mark Keable, Ipswich24 Magazine