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Nosferatu’s Shadow review at Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh – ‘deserves to tour’

Michael Daviot in Nosferatu's Shadow Michael Daviot in Nosferatu's Shadow
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“Infamous, iconic and unknown”, as he described himself, known by others as “the virtuoso of the grotesque”, Max Schreck was a highly regarded jobbing actor in Germany in the first half of the 20th century. He had a thriving career in both theatre and film but, as Michael Daviot’s solo show reveals, he cannot hide his disappointment at being remembered only for his iconic role as the vampire in the classic film Nosferatu.

In fact, as Schreck adds with German pragmatism, he would much rather not be remembered for anything at all. And this could so easily have happened since the widow of Bram Stoker, the writer of the original book of Dracula, sued Nosferatu’s producer for breach of copyright and ordered all the copies to be destroyed. That a few escaped and made their way into our collective cultural consciousness is grudgingly admitted by Schreck as possibly a good thing after all.

You’ll learn this and a host of other nuggets from this characterisation of an actor who worked with giants such as Bertolt Brecht, Max Reinhardt and political cabaret pioneer Otto Falckenberg. Meanwhile, favoured memories of Schreck’s Berlin childhood punctuate the proceedings, as do sonorously delivered excerpts of the actor’s favoured parts along with observations on working in the creative chaos of the Weimar Republic and the arrival of Nazism that ended it.

Michael Daviot bears more than a passing resemblance to Schreck and dives into his character convincingly without stooping to caricature. In telling the engrossing story of Schreck’s life, Daviot makes his audience warm to this distant, even prickly, character. With a bit more development in pacing and also lighting, this is a show that deserves to tour.

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Audience-pleasing and well-told biography of vampire actor