In Review

Dracula: The Untold Story – what the critics are saying

This ‘hypnotically’ watchable show, a co-production with Leeds Playhouse, presents an alternative history of the 20th century

Imitating the Dog is a Leeds-based theatre company that “pushes the boundaries” between theatre and digital technology, said Nick Ahad in The Guardian. Its latest show is a bracingly inventive spin on Dracula in which a 90-year-old woman named Mina Harker turns up at a police station on New Year’s Eve in 1965 to confess to an unlikely 70-year killing spree.

To tell this strange tale, the three actors perform simultaneously for the audience and for cameras on stage, so that their images can be relayed to a giant projection screen and digitally treated to “make it look as though we are watching a graphic novel come to life”. With influences ranging from movies such as Sin City and TV dramas such as Sherlock, to graphic novels including Watchmen and Constantine, this is “theatre as intensely popular culture”. And the result is “never less than engaging”, and often thrilling.

As the piece develops, said Clive Davis in The Times, we realise that what we are seeing is an alternative history of the 20th century: Mina – the wife of the man who hunted down Dracula – is a “merciless proto-superhero waging war against vampirism by eliminating a gallery of political villains from Kaiser Wilhelm to Mussolini and Stalin”.

In truth, it does become a bit convoluted at times. Yet the fusion of live action and video technology is “breathtakingly inventive”, the show “hypnotically” watchable, the details “exquisitely crafted” and the performances “impeccable”.

It’s the production’s style and swagger, more than the content, that makes this such a “compelling” piece of theatre, agreed Ron Simpson on What’s On Stage. Riana Duce is “remarkable” as Mina: “demure, passionate, aggressive, deeply troubled”; and Adela Rajnovic and Matt Prendergast play multiple other characters with great skill.

The play produces the “odd frisson of terror”, but this is not so much a horror story as an “alternative view of the death and afterlife of Dracula”; and as an alternative approach to live theatre, it is “totally exhilarating”. (Tours to Liverpool, Derby, Lancaster, Watford, Colchester and Salford.)

Leeds Playhouse until 9 Oct, then touring until 13 Nov (imitatingthedog.co.uk)

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