Dracula: The Untold Story – Review – ★★★★½
Feminist anti-heroine Mina Harker takes centre stage in this visually stunning detective noir follow-up to the vampire classic.
Dracula: The Untold Story | imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production | until 6 November at Watford Palace Theatre then Colchester and Salford
Touring theatre company imitating the dog take theatrical projection and live camera work into the future with this graphic novel continuation of the Dracula legend.
The rain patters on a 1965 Police Station roof as two skeptical cops interview a woman who claims to have killed. The premise is dark and delicious, unravelling into the twisted tale of Mina Harker the Dracula killer, who is haunted after the original horror of slaying the eponymous vampire.
The story barely touches Bram Stoker’s original, which is a little disappointing, but there is not a dull moment to be had as a talented trio of actors work seamlessly with graphic novel style projections.
The sheer visual wizardry, twinned with the multi-language acting skills of Riana Duce, Matt Prendergast and Adela Rajnović, are astounding. The way the they interact with each other, camera and audience reveals the true magic of cinema and to see it live on stage is thrilling – truly taking theatre into the future. The text they work with is powerful, channeling the sublime horror that Bram Stoker would be proud of. It’s more about the origins and uses of evil in film and literature than a simple cover version.
Adela Rajnovic’s believer policewoman is a triumph of nuance, Mina Harker’s central role played by Riana Dunce is captivating, and Matt Prendergast’s skeptic is a meaty character. However, the trio play so many other roles, proving a mighty real theatrical feat, and there is some sublime physical work recreating Dracula’s unnerving hands.
Despite eschewing the original text the story does go to new places in horror with Mina Harker’s bloody globe-trotting tale. Flashbacks of the original horror story do appear in the first half of the show, but sadly a revisiting of the first 90 or so pages of the book is nowhere to be found. The concept of Mina’s quest to defeat an evil apocalypse by slaying infamous heroes including Picasso does get a little far-fetched, even in the world of blood-sucking vampires.
This show is a beautiful testament to the power of new technologies (when used with precision) to tell a classic story that still deserves wider recognition. The eye-popping effects include deep-fake style facial movement and skillful silhouette work, with characters overlapping on screen and on stage.
Bloody good tip: Read Bram Stoker’s original text before you go, or watch the Frances Ford Coppola Dracula movie, to get up to speed. Avoid the recent BBC TV adaptation.