It’s not a Fringe without at least one Dracula, a story whose first theatrical production was penned by author Bram Stoker himself, the sole performance of which took place immediately before publication of his book in order that the stage copyright be secured in his name. Since then, many further productions have been staged across the world, including Broadway productions in 1927 starring Bela Lugosi and 1977 with Frank Langella, both of whom would then recreate those roles on film.
Musicals, operas, ballets and comedies have followed, and in 1991 the brilliant Tragic Carpet brought a physical theatre production entitled Nosferatu – A Symphony of Terror to the Fringe, staged at midnight within the cold stone walls of a former church on the slopes beneath Edinburgh Castle, and it within this same venue that Push to Shove Theatre Company have brought their new interpretation.
Necessarily abbreviated and simplified to compress Stoker’s complex work to a non-verbal presentation of less than an hour, it opens on Mina (Stephanie Newell) shivering in her pale dress, surrounded by papers which she binds into a journal, folding the shirts of her beloved husband and packing his case before his departure, pondering her glittering wedding ring.
With a surprisingly modern electronic soundtrack of pulsing tonalities, she is comforted by her best friend Lucy (Alice Saxton) as Jonathan (Simon Panayi) journeys to “the land beyond the trees” where darkness descends and the stage is lit by a single lamp held aloft as he is greeted by a lone figure, tall, thin, barefoot and of curious manner, Count Dracula (Mark McCredie), the music sinking to atonal rumblings.
Relying heavily on knowledge of the storyline – though, realistically, who isn’t familiar with at least some version of the outline? – the Count hides in the shadows cast by the pillars of the chamber and dances with his bride (Laura Baillie) as Jonathan works at his contracts, moving like an animal on fours as he travels back across the ocean to find Lucy, the meeting part seduction, part molestation.
Without dialogue, precision is needed to convey and communicate the action and the intent becomes muddled, the narrative losing focus as it drifts, dreamlike, towards its own telling of the story. The performers are neither particularly innovative or athletic but at least all are able to convey the emotion of their scenes, be it desire or humour, even the Bride grieving for Dracula as much as Mina and Jonathan for what they have lost.
Dracula continues at C Too on Johnston Terrace until August 29th