If I told you it was possible to put on a production of Dracula that made the audience cry with laughter would you believe me?
The Le Navet Bete production company performed in their home city of Exeter from the 31st of March- 1st of April and their version of Dracula was a farcical masterpiece. Think set falling apart, slapstick-style tripping, lines forgotten, tricks going wrong and throw in some slick multi-role skills for good measure. The cast of four guys did an amazing job at quick changes, owning each character they played and bringing a remarkable sense of energy to the Northcott stage.
As a drama student, I loved seeing how Le Navet Bete satirised theatre-making. The plot follows actors attempting to put together a performance to educate the public about the true events of the Dracula story. Watching the actors play not only characters but actors playing those characters added a really enjoyable layer of self-awareness. Brilliant comedic timing and strong chemistry between the actors made it one to remember.
I sat near the back of the auditorium but still had a great view of the stage, which was pretty bare as Van Helsing wanted to move away from the sets and props of traditional theatre. The minimal staging worked really well, however, as the actors could easy move things around to indicate a scene change. Beds, wardrobes, even a window, would appear quickly and so the pace never dwindled while we waited for setting to be changed.
Not only was the piece well-paced, but it was also incredibly skilful. The use of shadow was particularly impressive, a simple sheet and light became a great visual story-telling device. The actors are also very confident with their props. For example, a window was used to create the illusion of inside and outside, a toy rocking horse was brought on stage to represent a horse and carriage and the piece opened with various dinner table objects moving around as if by magic. There is no attempt to achieve realism in the production, no illusion is built that this is anything more than a crafted performance, but they master the props they use with grace and perfect timing- even the ‘mistakes’ are beautifully choregraphed!
The piece has great pace and time slipped by so quickly I couldn’t believe it when the interval suddenly arrived. The fast pace one-liner style script had me in stiches, I haven’t laughed that much at production in a long time.
Still don’t believe me that Dracula can be funny? The production is currently touring, why not try and grab a seat at a different venue while you still can!
(featured image from http://www.thelowry.com)