Gothic horror stories have intrigued and entertained audiences for many years. In 1897 Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published and since that time thousands of versions and interpretations of this famous work have followed. Dracula’s Guest is a two-act performance where Dracula ( James Hyland) tries persuading his “guest” Renfield (Ashton Spear) to become one with him.
Hyland, commands and dominates the stage from the beginning. His powerful beguiling voice has you jumping in your seats on many occasions. The cleverly scripted narcissistic manipulated mind games that he uses against his guest/victim Renfield at times leave you questioning what the truth is. Very much in keeping with how narcissistic people behave.
The strong physical performance between Hyland and Spear was breathtaking at times. Every punch, throw and strangulation appeared authentic. The powerful performance by the two actors demonstrates a crucial sense of mutual trust and respect between them. One wrong move could have seen either one of them seriously injured.
Dracula”s iconic cape and fangs have been exchanged for a smart mourning suit. Giving Dracula’s character a softer aesthetic impression. Contrasted against Renfield who we first see when entering the Theatre, rocking on the chair in a tatty white shirt which at one time would have been smart. The image of a worn-down emprisoned shell of a man who is sitting awaiting his inevitable doom is set out before us.
Staged around a long table with a severed pig’s head placed in the centre of it. As the play develops the audience learns that it’s riddled with maggots and is rotting. When Renfield finally relents and takes a bite my stomach turned, a word of warning just takes a deep breath for what takes place next!
Sitting in the front row there was a genuine feeling of unease when Hyland came too close. It’s extremely unlikely he would have broken the fourth wall and spoken to the audience directly but the energy and tension levels were running high from his performance as Dracula that anything would have been possible.
Adapted and directed by Hyland as well it is evident throughout the performance that he understands every twist and turn that is taken. Directing himself in some of those scenes cannot have been easy and demonstrate a strong sense of self-awareness.
Unfortunately, tonight was their last performance at The White Bear Theatre. I hope it will be transferred to another Theatre for future audiences to experience. Although I believe that this production would make also transfer across to become an excellent radio play using the same two actors.
For more information about Brother Wolf’s and The White Bear’s previous and upcoming work please use the links provided below.