Edinburgh Fringe 2016
We all know the Dracula story… or do we? Join the first Romanian immigrant as he strikes fear into the male establishment with some surprising consequences. Five actors take on lots of characters in this funny, fast-paced retelling of the classic Gothic tale.
Pleasance Beside is an unprepossessing blue box in Pleasance Courtyard – but there is magic within. Let Them Call It Mischief take on the challenge of the wide, shallow performing space and imbue it with energy and chutzpah to take us on a dizzying 60 minute ride through Transylvania to meet the eponymous Count.
Right from the start, the five-strong company set out their stall – playful, engaging, unafraid to set up a convention and break it, or indulge a running gag its life. At the beginning Jonathan Harker (the versatile Anthony Pinnick) is on the train and as it pulls into a stop, the stationmaster is waiting with a smoke machine to “accidentally” fill his carriage with “steam”. The show is packed with these delightful touches, with the actors unintentionally dropping each other in another fine mess.
Rob Cummings’ Dracula looms large, undercutting his dark presence with delicate footwork, his tiny geisha steps mimicking the gliding Count from so many B movies. Harker is keen to get out of Castle Dracula as soon as possible and return to London to his beloved Mina – and to deliver pressing paperwork – but he is detained by a delightful spoof harem of vampires – they even indulge him with a bit of Dirty Dancing. It is deliciously delivered.
Back home Mina (a sassy, strong Sarah Bradnam) awaits Jonathan’s return whilst her friend Lucy (a lovely dizzy turn from Alyssa Noble) fends off proposals of marriage from – well, anyone in the company who’s free – “How long will you be? – As long as it takes me to get changed”. The doubling and trebling is handled with great aplomb and a generous helping of nudge and wink.
The action stays pretty close to Bram Stoker’s original – the arrival of Van Helsing (a gleeful Graham Elwell who doubles as a suitably disturbed Renfield – and everyone else) signals the beginning of the end – he’s out for the Count. The stakes are high – obviously – and the stage blood goes everywhere.
Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey have concocted a well-aimed script which doffs a cap to Blackadder and Patrick Barlow’s 39 Steps – there’s a splash of Spike Milligan in there too. There’s enough layering to make sure the adults get their laughs without the kids feeling short-changed. Wainwright’s direction ensures the pace doesn’t drop – the set-pieces are well-executed and there’s a very nice complicity with the audience. If you’re after a good time in Edinburgh – get your teeth into this one.