I haven’t been reviewing ballet much lately, but I also haven’t been making treks to the great depths of Southern Yorkshire to go see productions of shows I’m especially interested in. Well, this isn’t entirely true: I made it to Whitby Abbey to see the charming Dracula 5696 put on, but that wasn’t the reason I was in Whitby. No, I made to to the dark wild north – of Finchley – because I was dying to see (get it?) Dracula, the ballet production by the Mark Bruce company. By the time I navigated the 15 minute walk from the Tube station (and the 1:10 tube journey from Paddingon) I was feeling dispirited. Could it possibly worth it? I mean, if this was really good, it would be at Sadler’s Wells, right?
As it turns out, this show was well worth the journey (in part because the 2:00 running time meant I got home around 11 rather than midnight as I had feared). The show was surprising to me in so many ways, from the music to the use of masks/puppets to the quite unexpected presence of the human voice is what so frequently is a mime show. The set was fairly static – a hint of a house with windows, a wrought iron gate – but in front we had tombstones, tables, beds, endlessly remaking the stage in front of us into what we needed for the scene. Our fairly constant companions for our voyage from Whitby to Transylvania and back were the three seductive Brides of Dracula, who were especially funny when they did a turn as Lucy’s maids (giving us big grins with pointy teeth in case we’d forgotten where we’d seen them before).
The production did a very nice job of creating a dark atmosphere, starting with the opening scene – Dracula taking a baby from a pack of wolves and handing it to his female minions – and carrying through to the heartbreak of the boat scene, where the sailors (and captain) one by one die on the stage. My favorite bit, though, was the hectic ride from the village to Castle Dracula, with puppet headed horse women (the brides again, I’m pretty sure) making a mad dash while the wolves surrounded and snapped at them. It was a great bit of dance theater and probably had a better sense of tension than any movie version I’ve seen of this.
And while spooky much of this was, there were also some strong moments of humor – Dracula’s soft shoe to a twenties (?) song about a bear, complete with top hat and a cane, as well as the scene where Lucy has three men propose to her in short order – to keep thing from becoming morbid or maudlin. But then you had lots of sexiness – Dracula winning over Lucy, then quite soon after breaking Mina’s spirit – mixed with intensely visceral, luscious dancing that, well, made me want to show my next. Overall, I’d say it was a very successful production, and while I’m sorry it wasn’t playing in central London, I’m very happy that so many people have had a chance to see this highly entertaining show.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014. It closes tonight.)