It was in 1859, when she was six years old, that Laura would first dream of Carmilla; it would be another thirteen years when as a young woman, dressed in a peach dress of floral pattern anticipating the arrival of her friend Bertha only to be told that she had died mysteriously, that Laura would first meet Carmilla in the living flesh.
Her carriage suffering an accident near Laura’s home, they recognise each other immediately; old friends newly met, Carmilla takes residence in the room opposite Laura’s to recover but the servants dislike the new arrival who sweeps about in red velvet robes with a perpetual scowl, and with more unexplained deaths in the village, all of them young women, the doctor is baffled.
Performed by students of the University of Gloucester and billed as “a new musical by David Last and James Williams,” curiously The Vampyre makes no mention of the significant contribution of Sheridan Le Fanu though it is an adaptation of his novella Carmilla, and considerably more faithful than Carl Dreyer’s 1932 film version Vampyr.
The cast possessed of pleasing voices and the score consisting of actual melodies, unlike many Fringe musicals, the vocals are too weak against the amplified music except when massed in chorus and any spoken dialogue during the musical numbers is lost entirely, plot points entirely inaudible to the audience even in a small venue.
That they can all sing is fortunate, for the acting is at best variable, ranging from Laura’s earnest innocence, the below-stairs shrewdness of her ill-fated servant and little orphan Bertha, lively when seen in flashback, to the doctor whose professional detachment seems more like disinterest, announcing deaths with the emotion of a weather report.
With poor technique adding to the problems, characters dramatically striding from one side of the stage to the other only to turn back and face the way they have just come, a servant who is asked to go to another room not even pretending to leave, simply walking to the edge of the lit area before returning, the fault seems largely to lie with Karen Benjamin, The Vampyre potentially a good show but in need of better direction.
The Vampyre runs at theSpace on Niddry Street until Saturday 20th August