“it doesn’t always feel like the comedy is intentional”
Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ is a classic horror text and Arrows & Traps Theatre present a lively and committed production of it just in time for Halloween. For those who don’t know the story, Count Dracula is a vampire who feeds off the blood of the living, a murderer and seducer who has just moved from Transylvania to London. He is pursuing Mina Murray, the fiancé of Jonathan Harker, a solicitor who has recently been to visit the Count and is now plagued with visions of terrible things. As time begins to run out, a small team led by Professor Van Helsing, must fight to stop him.
The set, designed by Francine Huin-Wah, works really well. Set over two levels, the theatre is covered in thick castle stone and hung with ropes. The multiple levels allow lots of scope for use of the staging which Ross McGregor, writer and director of the piece, uses for maximum effect. The interweaving narratives are placed alongside each other so that sinister characters lurk in corners of seemingly innocent scenes, foreshadowing what is to come.
The cast is consistently strong. Lucy Ioannou as Lucy, and Beatrice Vincent who plays Mina, are a strong and lively duo. Cornelia Baumann’s Renfield is both terrifying and moving in her performance. Christopher Tester’s Dracula is wonderfully classic, sexual and camp, dressed in the long black robes of the night.
The production does seem occasionally confused – part comic, farcical almost, part genuine horror. A particularly jarring moment of this involves a cover of ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears. Jump scares are followed by comic moments then another jump scare, and it doesn’t always feel like the comedy is intentional. There is a tendency at points towards melodrama but in this context the result is rather a fun one.
This is undoubtedly an entertaining and engaging evening delivered by committed and genuine performances.
“a richly poignant and artistically cinematographic production”
In a richly poignant and artistically cinematographic production, Arrows and Traps Theatre Company presents the sad, courageous story of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans who, with like-minded friends, formed the pacifist, anti-Nazi group, The White Rose. Together they wrote propaganda leaflets against Hitler and his regime and secretly distributed them all over Germany. In the company’s first original play, Ross McGregor, as writer and director, uses diaries, court and interrogation documents and first-hand accounts to bring to light the strength and sacrifice made by these young people. It is comforting that, although their bravery is little known in Britain, the members of the group are national heroes in Germany.
Projections of Hitler’s brutally powerful speeches introduce both halves of the play, setting a tone of oppression. We switch from Sophie’s cross-examination to the group meetings and more personal friendships but with the prominent shadow of the Gestapo cleverly present almost throughout. Lucy Ioannou, as Sophie, steps in and out of these two worlds with ease, from spirited student to shocked detainee, becoming cornered by imposing Gestapo officer Robert Mohr (Christopher Tester). Excellent performances all round create a feeling of the life which both stimulates and contrasts their fight. Fittingly similar in appearance to their subjects they each bring a well-drawn character to the group.
The filmic effect runs through the work. The red of Sophie’s cardigan against an otherwise sombre background echoes the 2005 film ‘Sophie Scholl. The Final Days’; interspersed scenes of the past and passages of abstract movement paint a broader picture of their lives. The set by Odin Corie combines a traditional, central table and period props, with gauze side-screens, effectively used for off-stage action. Ben Jacobs’ lighting is stunningly dramatic. It conjures up the atmosphere of the many scenes and marks the changes, perfectly coordinated with Alistair Lax’s sound. There is a practically non-stop selection of atmospheric music and effects yet the significance of the words could be enhanced with less. And although there are some very imaginative movement sequences, certain gas-masked Gestapo routines undermine the tone of the play.
‘The White Rose’ is an eye-catching production with an important message of remembrance. Careful, thoughtful direction builds the intensity but rather than peaking at one climactic point it holds its breath while we hear their last moments and imagine what their lives could have been, absorbing it through the drama and taking it away with us.