Dracula: The Untold Story Review – Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool

Dracula The Untold Story
Image Source: Playhouse Theatre

Show: Dracula: The Untold Story
Location: Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool
Dates: Tuesday October 12th
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Age Rating: 14+
Performers: Riana Duce, Adela Rajnovic, Matt Prendergast
Production Company: Imitating The Dog
Writers: Andrew Quick & Pete Brooks
Directors: Andrew Quick & Pete Brooks

This is our theatre review for Dracula: The Untold Story at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre so let’s take a look at Dracula: The Untold Story.

Dracula: The Untold Story

Background

It’s New Year’s Eve 1965 in London, England. And just before midnight, revellers are celebrating the beginning of another year. But at that moment, a young woman visits Marylebone Police Station to confess to a brutal murder. Now, she claims to be Mina Harker, Mina being the sole survivor of the intrepid group witnessing Count Dracula’s terrifying actions 70 years beforehand. However, Mina hasn’t been seen herself ever since 1901. Furthermore, if she was still with us, then by now she would be 90-years-old. But as Mina confesses to terrifying events, she retells the tale of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. And she claims it’s the true story; the untold story. What’s more, she has to tell it now, before sunrise. Before it’s too late; before …

Synopsis

This would be the first piece of theatre I have witnessed by Imitating the Dog. Their reputation precedes them as risk taking and producers of groundbreaking bold theatre fusing live performance and digital technology. That’s me sold.

Last night at the Playhouse it was the turn of Dracula: The Untold Story to take the stage. Not professing to know much about Dracula I was unsure of how this story would play out. Safe to say I was left enthralled.

The play begins with Riana Duce walking into a police station claiming to have information about a horrid murder. She declares to be Mina Harker. To the shock of the fellow police officers she then maintains it was her, not her husband that killed Dracula. What was to follow would be a thrilling, intense and remarkable journey into her past. We follow her travels across the globe to kill political figures and villains, (Stalin, Mussolini, et al) all before they commit their horrendous acts of terror. These killings were all justified by her lucid dreams. She is almost a superhero taking it upon herself to free the world of the hurt caused by these men, before they’re able to do so.

This is all brought to us in the form of an unfolding, animated graphic novel onstage. My eyes could barely keep up with what was happening. I was enthralled by the first scene in the police cell. That was clever, I thought. I had no idea of what was to come. A trio of cameras were set up on stage; one for each of the actors that would be used to film them for live projection. These live images were woven into the screen behind, thus forming the ever changing comic book onstage. This setup was tweaked throughout the performance with Adela Rajnovic and Matt Prendergast being almost dab hands at this, having previously worked for Imitating The Dog. 

The visuals onstage illustrate Mina’s words. Train journeys across Europe are shown first as an animated map and before you know it, she’s sitting in the carriage of the train animated behind her. There are scenes inside apartments, down alleyways, on steps outside official buildings. Each as convincing as the last. This is no typical projector screen either. With slight recesses built into it, we’re treated to the actors adding levels, using height and angles. It’s so very well planned and rehearsed. All being thrust to us with this compelling technology. A synergy of set design, on stage direction and projection. Adding to all of this is the seamless way in which the three on stage slip into each language of the characters they’re portraying as we travel with Harker. Complete with not subtitles, but speech bubbles on the screen behind them. Placed perfectly to come from whoever is speaking at the time. This IS a comic book in English, French, Italian, German and Russian. 

Rajnovic and Prendergast played multiple roles with conviction from sceptic police officers to Mussolini, Stalin and of course the eerie and haunting voice of Dracula. Dracula was never seen as one figure, we heard his voice, we saw his profile, fleetingly. It was just enough to tweak your imagination. He was referenced enough but the focus and power shifted over to Mina. Almost like shapeshifters, Rajnovic and Prendergast gave us all the angles, even the unflattering angle of when you open your camera in selfie mode. This relates to them taking a quick 10 min break walking outside the police station in the rain. A flawless execution of a brilliant idea.

Summary

The story was gripping every step of the way. It gave us an alternative history of the Dracula story we’ve all heard. Sound, lighting, video and special effects all come together to make a compelling piece of theatre in a celebration of just what can be achieved with today’s technology and the creative minds of the likes of Simon Wainwright, Laura Hopkins, James Hamiliton, Andrew Crofts, Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks. Highly recommend, in fact I’d say it’s a must see.

Notes

Target Audience: 14+
Recommendation?: Yes

Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect

Dracula: The Untold Story Further Links

Dracula: The Untold Story is playing at the Playhouse Theatre from Tuesday October 12 to Saturday October 16 2021. So, to purchase tickets, please click here.

For more information about this show, please click here.

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