Opened in 1841, the London Library has been used by an illustrious list of authors, including Bram Stoker. In fact, the gothic writer not only used the resources when researching his iconic blood-sucking novel, but committed the cardinal sin of library users: annotating the books.
This quirk of history provides an interesting background to Creation Theatre’s production of Dracula at the library. Directed by Helen Tennison, Kate Kerrow’s adaptation is relocates the novel to 1950s and sees it performed by just two cast members, Sophie Greenham and Bart Lambert.
There are simply too many different characters for such a small cast to successfully bring to life and the production’s scrappier moments mainly arise when they are switching back and forth between roles. Dracula himself never actually appears – which feels a little disappointing – making the story closer to a psychosexual drama than an actual vampire tale.
Greenham is best as Mina, a new young wife addressing her frustration at her unconsummated marriage with sneaky cigarettes and psychoanalysis. In turn, Lambert is most convincing as her neurotic, shaky-handed husband, Jonathan Harker.
As a whole, it’s a little rough around the edges, although not lacking in ambition, with a tendency towards melodrama. But the site-specific makes excellent use of the cavernous and tranquil location and its endless shadowy nooks and crannies.
The projections and sound design are useful for drawing the audience’s attention to hidden corners of the Reading Room. And, behind the performance space is a wall of books where, in a pleasing nod to Stoker’s studies, a Romanian-English dictionary can just be glimpsed.