Jack Studio Theatre
Reviewed – 11th October 2018
“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.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Davor Tovarlaza
Jack Studio Theatre until 27th October
Previously reviewed at this venue:
It Tastes Like Home
Bread & Roses Theatre
Reviewed – 15th October 2017
“simple and candid at first but it somehow manages to transform from an almost school-like production to an important cultural experience”
A romantic comedy can be a curious watch. Especially when said comedy is a musical with a plot revolving around two families, one of Jamaican and one of Chinese descent.
For me, “It tastes like home” has two defining flavours to it (as is suitable for a play that can’t stop talking about food). The first involves the technical aspects of the production itself. To start with, all the actors are on stage, involved in a chat so nonchalant that I can’t tell if it is a part of the play or they have in fact things to discuss while waiting for their cue to start.
The half-heartedly sang introduction makes me think two things: the actors don’t feel like being here and they really need more singing lessons. This is followed by something that looks to me like a rather clichéd love story with some unfunny jokes, a few anti-Brexit suggestions and some thoughts on the difficulties that overseas immigrants face in the UK. I slowly start realising that not only do I not find anything captivating, but that the acting is not quite good enough and the humour is beyond me (why is everyone laughing?!). I start to consider if I am not the intended audience for the material or perhaps I just don’t have a sense of humour at all, or maybe I just don’t understand some important witty point that the director (Roman Berry) wanted to convey.
My mind soon quickly returns to criticising the show again. I’m thinking that if they wanted to raise the issues of racial hatred and prejudice, they really could have done it in a more profound way. Why is the mother (Charlene Hamilton) of the main male character (Windson Liong) such a Chinese stereotype? In fact, why is the whole of one family stereotypically Chinese and the other stereotypically Jamaican? I did feel more and more uncomfortable watching this, although I found myself increasingly close to bursting into laughter with the whole audience every time the Chinese mother showed up on stage.
This is when the second “defining flavour” starts hitting me. This is also when my reaction becomes a lot more personal. The Chinese parents are about to meet their son’s black, UK born girlfriend (Melissa Parke). In an instant it turns out that they are more than unhappy to see his choice of partner and all the racist comments and questions that one can think of take place. The situation repeats and becomes more obvious when both families meet. I was thunderstruck. Are they not attacking me?! Is it not about me, a white person after all? Or are they saying that racial prejudice happens between all races, and was this musical meant to be, after all, just a sweet and simple love story? Suddenly I feel myself slightly embarrassed but I relax and become a lot more susceptible to join the general merriment and uproars of laughter.
This was quite an experience for me. I don’t know what it was at the beginning that prevented me from enjoying this playful and sincere production. Perhaps I felt a sense of guilt that often accompanies white people when confronted with the idea of racial unfairness, maybe I thought that the play lacked a purpose, maybe I was displeased for what I thought was an attack on me. Perhaps all of the above.
The play is simple and candid at first but it somehow manages to transform from an almost school-like production to an important cultural experience. Although I still think all members of the cast would benefit from singing and acting lessons, I think you should see this show. It will either provide you with a relaxed evening or it will help you find something out about yourself.
Reviewed by Aleksandra Myslek
Photography by Headshot Toby
IT TASTES LIKE HOME
was at The Bread & Roses Theatre as part of the Clapham Fringe Festival