Tapping into the cultural appetite for vampirism and coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s death, Suffolk Summer Theatre presents what, by and large, is a loyal stage adaptation of Stoker’s evergreen novel.
Katherine French and Ian Targett in The Curse of Dracula at Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh Photo: Stephen Wolfenden
At the outset it seems we are to be treated to a new interpretation, as a group of modern-day archeologists stumbles upon Dracula’s tomb while squirrelling about in a former lunatic asylum. Perhaps more could be made of the 21st century/19th century flip, but modern life only briefly reappears at the denouement in time for the fanged one to do his bit for the undead. Instead, we get a pretty straight rendition of the Gothic period piece with which we are all so familiar - and highly entertaining it is too.
Maurice Rubens’ splendid set combines with Ben Payne’s lighting to create effective Transylvanian eeriness, gleefully milked to death by Ian Targett as the Count and Mark Jackson as unwitting solicitor Jonathan Harker. Targett not only looks the part but strikes the right balance between charm and malevolence. Harker is convincingly spooked by the devilish goings-on, but Jackson also brings a quirky Comic Strip-like pomposity to his character. He and director Mark Sterling have clearly had some fun devising a buffoonish side to this Victorian gent. In terms of making an exhibition of oneself, Clive Flint gets the ultimate vehicle in the shape of bug-eating mad man Robert Renfield. Flint’s range of ticks and spasms fit the bill nicely, as does his ability to evoke sympathy as well as curiosity for his character’s plight.
Kate Middleton is sure-footed as Mina Harker and Katherine French sensuous as Lucy Westenra. Not quite so well cast is Simon Snashall as Westenra’s beau Dr John Seward. A physical, expressive - and dependable - actor, Snashall must be chomping at the bit to play Renfield, or even Dracula, and seems a strange fit for the medic. That aside, even the most particular Hammer Horror film fan would struggle to find much to complain about with Suffolk Summer Theatre’s production.