Reverend Productions’ Dracula is a present-day story inspired by, but not retelling, Bram Stoker’s Victorian gothic novel, managing to evoke the characters from the original while placing them in a new setting. The action centres around Lucy (Lucy Westenra), her husband Jack (Dr Jack Seward), her best friend Alex (loosely Mina) and Alex’s brother Johnny (Jonathan Harker, but also Renfield). Broadly, the plot follows the portion of the book set in Whitby, where Lucy is visited by Dracula, and Jonathan has recently returned, much changed, from his travels. But this production is set in a modern London flat, is born of “immersive, extended improvisation and a collaborative writing process”, and is much more than an adaptation of a portion of the book.
The cast are superbly in tune with one another, making the many little moments of friendship and awkward socialising in the opening scene funny and relatable. This, of course, makes the rest of the play, as chaos prevails, all the more shocking. The realistic portrayal of the characters at the start is what stops Dracula from feeling like horror, falling into tired tropes and plot devices and becoming just another ‘vampire story’. The programme notes point out that, in Bram Stoker’s novel, “Most of the action takes place in London, among sympathetic characters that would have seemed familiar to the book’s first readers.” It is this familiarity, now missing from the novel to a modern audience, that gives this production its edge.
As Lucy, the main character, descends into madness, infidelity or vampirism, as you care to interpret, themes of mental illness, addiction and the supernatural are explored in turn. Eleanor Rushton as Lucy is mesmerising throughout, but particularly as the play progresses, portraying instant changes in mood and character with sinister grace. The ambiguity in the plot, given there is no visible ‘Dracula’, leaves her and Johnny’s motives open and the ending unfinished, like all the best horror stories. Dracula examines dark corners of the human psyche; the consequences of freely making a choice that cannot be reversed, and desperation in the face of suffering.