I had never seen a ballet in my entire 43 years on this planet so I was very excited to get the opportunity to see Dracula by the excellent Northern Ballet at the Playhouse last night.
First of all, it needs to be said that the refurbishment of the Playhouse has been beautifully done and I particularly love the “I get knocked down, but I get up again” neon sign on the side of the building.
I can honestly say that all I know about dance in general, has been gleaned from many hours enjoying Strictly Come Dancing, but this knocked that experience out of the park!
The curtains opened and we could see the old Count (Riku Ito) writhing around inside folds and folds of fabric which made it seem as though he was part of the floor. His makeup was gruesome and the actor/dancer really did look other-worldly. The writhing around eventually reached a crescendo and the fabric turned inside out to blood red, making it seem as though we watching the birth of Dracula.
The story of poor, hapless Jonathan Harker (played excellently by Lorenzo Trossello) visiting the mysterious Count, unfolded as I expected from reading the Bram Stoker novel, and to say that the company conveyed all of the action and emotion with no dialogue, no speech – just the use of their bodies blew my mind.
Watching Jonathan watch his employer crawl vertically down the building was so impressive and creepy – the strength the dancer must have to achieve that is unbelievable. In fact, he inhabited the vampire – many of his movements seeming animalistic, he twisted and crawled and slithered across the stage.
The three dancers (Rachael Gillespie, Sarah Chun and Minju Kang) who played the brides of Dracula, determined to seduce Mr Harker were beyond belief, the seduction was incredibly impassioned and I’m not surprised he found it hard to resist!
Once he had snacked on his employee and gained some youthful energy, Dracula transformed into a younger version of himself played by the wonderful Javier Torres. He became obsessed with Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina, played and danced beautifully by Abigail Prudames.
Kevin Poeung played Renfield, an inmate of a sanatorium and a kind of student of Dracula. He was amazing as a crazed wraith, twisting and turning, contorting his body, he was mesmeric to watch.
Throughout the performance the sets were really impressive – quite minimal but evoking ball rooms, graveyards and tombs to great effect.
The scene that particularly stood out for me was the love scene between Mina and Dracula – it was so moving and beautiful, it took my breath away. When Lucy’s behaviour became distinctly more vampish after her encounter with the Count that was also portrayed perfectly, this time by Antoinette Brookes-Daw.
There were lots of aspects of the performance that were extremely eerie, in keeping with the gothic novel.
Applying my scant Strictly knowledge, there was some fabulous cloak work going on, especially by the Count, and if you think the lifts on the BBC show are impressive, your mind will be blown by the skill and the strength of these dancers.
This show was so impressive that I have found it hard to get out of my mind. If you get the chance to go along you will not be disappointed.
Dracula runs at Leeds Playhouse until Saturday 2 November. Tickets cost £15-45 from (0113) 213 7700 or leedsplayhouse.org.uk/events/dracula
This post was written by Hazel Millichamp
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