Tag Archives: John Bulleid

Dracula

Dracula

★★★

Richmond Theatre

Dracula

Dracula

Richmond Theatre

Reviewed – 27th March 2022

★★★

 

“The show moves at a good pace, and it’s steeped in moody sound and stage effects”

 

Actor James Gaddas doesn’t lack ambition. It’s not every established actor who would go to the trouble of adapting Bram Stoker’s sprawling novel Dracula, and turn it into a one man show. And yet Stoker’s nineteenth century horror story is eminently stageworthy. Dracula is not just a horror film classic. Stoker, was, after all, a successful theatre manager as well as an author. His writing is steeped in theatricality, and Dracula is no exception. The story is packed with all sorts of unforgettable theatrical moments, quite apart from the memorable characters. Gaddas’ adaptation of Dracula, assisted by director Pip Minnithorpe, with set and costume design by Lee Ward, and illusion designer John Bulleid, is a meticulous homage to Stoker’s classic. And it’s somehow appropriate that this tour should begin at the beautifully restored RIchmond Theatre, which opened the same year that Dracula was published. Bram Stoker would approve.

That said, there is also the sense that Gaddas doesn’t quite manage to tame his material, and wrangle it into one man show size. While Gaddas is shrewd enough to retain large amounts of the original text while taking on a variety of roles, he doesn’t quite trust Stoker’s story enough. Gaddas shows great versatility in playing male and female roles —ranging from American to Romanian — alive, dead, and undead. He has an engaging stage presence, and a loyal following among his fans. But he is not content to stop there. Gaddas’ adaptation of Dracula becomes more than just a retelling of a nineteenth epistolary novel. He adds on the story of an actor — himself — who is hired to host a twenty first century documentary about vampires. It’s the kind of television show that promises ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. Things get out of hand as Gaddas becomes gets too involved with his job. He gets obsessed with a mysterious journal that hints at more than Stoker’s original story. That Professor Van Helsing in Stoker’s novel may not have managed to destroy the vampire Count after all. Gaddas’ obsession with discovering the truth in the legend brings him to the brink of insanity — not unlike the character Renfield in the original Dracula. This embellishment to the original tale does allow Gaddas to bring it firmly into the twenty first century, and add some charming, self-deprecatory laugh lines. But the add on also detracts from the horror of Stoker’s novel. Which, for Dracula, is sort of the point.

Nevertheless, this version of Dracula remains a good evening’s entertainment. The show moves at a good pace, and it’s steeped in moody sound and stage effects. The set design is almost too cluttered — more suited to an incident room in a television police drama series. It does allow for the set designer and illusion designer to spring a few shock moments on the audience as the show proceeds however. Gaddas himself holds the attention whether he’s chilling your blood as a vampire, or wondering why, as an actor immersed in his research, his wife has taken to sleeping in the spare bedroom. This Dracula is a different take on horror, and is well suited to an actor of Gaddas’ range. It is less frightening than sitting at home alone, reading Bram Stoker’s novel, but for family audiences, that can only be a good thing.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

 

Dracula

Richmond Theatre

 

Recently reviewed by Dominica:
The Forest | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | February 2022
When We Dead Awaken | ★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | March 2022
Legacy | ★★★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | March 2022
Cock | ★★★ | Ambassadors Theatre | March 2022
Triffids! | ★★★★★ | Arts Depot | March 2022

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

When Darkness Falls

When Darkness Falls

★★★

Park Theatre

When Darkness Falls

When Darkness Falls

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 24th August 2021

★★★

 

“The creative elements of the show keep us spellbound, although the writing does come into its own as the fear factor increases”

 

It was a dark and stormy night…

The night in question is an indeterminate, though definitely stormy, one in 2017. John Blondel (Will Barton), a local teacher and historian, is preparing for a talk with a young author and paranormal expert as part of a weekly Vlog he is broadcasting for the island’s Historical Society. As part of his groundwork, he is researching the great storm of 1987; listening to soundbites from the news reports and the now famous failure of the Met Office to foresee the ill wind blowing. The significance of the comparatively light-hearted opening will become clear as the evening progresses, and darkens.

It is a well-known fact that part of the human condition is programmed to enjoy being scared – or rather ‘safely scared’. The proliferation of ghost stories in literature, film and stage bear witness to that. The effect is heightened when the source material is based on true events, as is James Milton’s and Paul Morrissey’s “When Darkness Falls”. We are promised five tales gleaned from Guernsey’s folklore and paranormal history. John Blondel is a self-confessed sceptic and unbeliever and regards the forthcoming interview with a foreboding flippancy and is initially more concerned with his supply of coffee and biscuits and the lack of punctuality of his guest. Will Barton captures the untidy mind of the character with an assured realism, suggesting that his pragmatism is not as solid as he would like to make out. More sinister is Alex Phelps’ unnamed speaker who coolly challenges his host’s disbelief.

The haunting tales the speaker relates bridge five centuries, covering witch hunts, burning, murder, ghoulish canines, revenge, piracy, the Nazi occupation; among others. There is a connecting thread but initially it struggles to snare the audience. Instead, the piece really picks up when the ghost story leaves the realms of anecdote and starts to filter into the action unfolding before us, and we realise that the two characters are existing within their own horror story. The script works best when it strays away from the ghost story and speculates on the human condition that gives rise to these stories. A brief discussion on mourning and melancholia, for instance, or the notion that history is not fact but perceived; therefore, everything is possible in our perception. Even ghosts.

The fantasy is sharpened by Daniel Higgott’s sound design and Bethany Gupwell’s lighting that create more of the magic than the dialogue – but all too sporadic to keep the hairs on our necks standing for long. John Bulleid’s magic and illusion design works wonders in tandem with Justin Williams’ beautifully crafted set that cleverly conjures up the state of John’s mind as well as the cluttered chaos that impels us to seek a supernatural cause beyond a crumbling rational.

The creative elements of the show keep us spellbound, although the writing does come into its own as the fear factor increases. We were promised five ghost stories – but in truth we have four. The fifth is the reality that delivers the stinging twist in the tale, and that is what ultimately bristles the hairs on our necks more than anything that goes bump in the night.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


When Darkness Falls

Park Theatre until 4th September

 

2021 Shows reviewed by Jonathan:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Amélie The Musical | ★★★★ | Criterion Theatre | June 2021
Bad Days And Odd Nights | ★★★★★ | Greenwich Theatre | June 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Forever Plaid | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | June 2021
The Hooley | ★★★★★ | Chiswick House & Gardens | June 2021
Forgetful Heart | ★★★★ | Online | June 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | June 2021
Be More Chill | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | July 2021
Heathers | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Haymarket | July 2021
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | July 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | August 2021
The Windsors: Endgame | ★★★ | Prince of Wales Theatre | August 2021
The Rice Krispie Killer | ★★★★ | Lion and Unicorn Theatre | August 2021
Constellations | ★★★★ | Vaudeville Theatre | August 2021
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | August 2021

 

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