Music begins to play. On stage, furniture is covered in dust speckled sheets. Half the stage hidden by curtains. In Dr. Seward’s sanitarium, a man is led astray by his insatiable desires, drawn to madness and hunted in the night…
The characters in the play each had their own unique quirks. I personally was interested in how the actors developed their characters non-verbally and when they were bystanders to the action/dialogue. Sometimes the actions of characters and their relationships has a greater impact than dialogue. Van Helsing (Jason Dohle) and Count Dracula (Joel Sammels) went past their stereotypical counterparts. The relationship between Lucy Seward (Toni Vernon) and John Harker (Phillip Hutton) appeared realistically strained on stage, with Lucy’s illness tragically postponing them from being romantically involved or getting married.
The Murdoch Theatre Company has collaborated with the director of Lit by Limelight (a children’s theatre) to develop a set that would be adaptable for the different productions. For Dracula, the set was designed by Ally Snell with designs being both sophisticated and durable. Throughout the play, the stage hands were ‘disguised’ as staff at the Sanitorium which helped with snappy and precise scene changes.
The lighting added to the overall mood of the performance and greatly transformed the stage between settings and scene changes. Lighting was designed by Scott McArdle and manned by Tay Broadley. The sound-scape effectively improved the underlying tension and suspense. The sound was designed by Tim Brain.
The costuming was reminiscent of 19th century fashion and suitably chosen. The costumes for Count Dracula and his brides stood out the most. Costumes were designed by Sophie Braham. The vampires wore coordinated dark red and black outfits. Their undead appearance emphasized with contact lenses, long fingernails, ruby red tattoos and pale complexions. Make up was designed by Leah Toyne. The main special effects in the play included voiceovers, wolf and bat sound effects. The most notable is the use of fog to signal Dracula’s transformation as a bat.
Overall, a great performance was put on by all with all the suspense and terror you could need and my excitement for the next two Gothic plays, The Mummy Rises and Frankenstein, only increased!
Playwright & Origins of Script
The 1924 stage play was written by Hamilton Deane and was a three act play. Hamilton Deane (1880-1958) was an irish actor, playwright and director. John Balderston was hired by Horace Liveright to revise the play in 1927 for Broadway productions with American audiences. John L. Balderston (1889-1954) was an American playwright and screenwriter. The play was originally presented at the Fulton Theatre in New York City.
The play, Dracula originates from the 1897 Bram Stoker novel, which was first published in the United Kingdom. Bram Stoker was an irish author who started writing in 1872. His interest and writing mainly focused on irish folktales, occult and the supernatural. His focus on these developed while he was bedridden until the age of seven from an unidentified illness. Supernatural folktales have lived on for centuries, from vampires and alongside Stoker’s illness, the story of Dracula was developed. The character of Count Dracula was inspired by the Romanian ruler Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) who ruled Walachia several times between 1456 and 1462. Since then, several spinoffs and revisions have occurred and it has inspired other books and films around the subject of vampires and the supernatural.
Play: Dracula (Three shows, @ 7:30pm, July 7th, 8th & 9th)
Location: Nexus Theatre (90 South Street, Murdoch University, Carpark 3/near library)
Synopsis: A classic gothic story reimagined on stage, with characters such as the famous Van Helsing and Dracula. Van Helsing is hired to investigate the mystery of Lucy Seward’s illness and its possible link to Renfield’s madness. The play switches settings between Dr Seward sanitorium and their neighbour’s bachelor pad at Carfax.
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Horror Rating: MA15+
Director: John King, presented by Murdoch Theatre Company
Writer: Hamilton Deane, Revised by: John L. Balderston
Murdoch Theatre Company-FB Page
John King (director) Interview
Dracula- Original Script (1927)
Dracula- 1897 novel
Bram Stoker- Biography information
Vlad Dracula- Britannica Encyclopedia