Saturday 29th September 2018 at The Grand Theatre and Opera House, York.
Le Navet Bete’s Dracula the Bloody Truth is stupendously and proudly ridiculous. An homage to everything silly and a celebration of everything remotely farcical about melodramatic nineteenth century thrillers, its a non-stop display of fast-paced fun.
Although it sells itself as a tongue-in-cheek ‘bloodcurdling tale of terror’ – it’s more of a rib-tickling tale of blunders delivered by a shambolic cast and their endlessly frustrated director/ local professor who attempts to poke and prod this band of merrily foolish actors into something resembling a re-enactment of the REAL events surrounding Count Dracula…
The Show is pitched as a comic, physical theatre rendition of Bram Stoker’s story aimed at children 8+ but the theatre was filled with laughter from audience members of all ages; the brand of humour is of course completely ridiculous and filled with slapstick, so unless you’re taking a kid with you or you have maintained your love of the silly from childhood, this might be a little too adolescent for some…
From the pens of Le Navet Bete and John Nicholson (who also directs), this production rests heavily on the strength of the physical comedy provided by the cast – the energy never falters while the action maintains a pace of fast-forward for much of the running time; this will certainly keep the attention of young audiences glued to the stage- probably with jaws towards the floor for some of the visual gags and some of the shocking language.
For me, I think 8 is a generous age advisory – there’s a significant amount of naughty language, mildly sexual moments and rather dark moments for the youngest of the family to contend with (something they acknowledge as ‘slightly inappropriate’ content) and some parents might find the show a little mature for them.
The gags arrive in all shapes and sizes, from scripted breaking from role, to word play, to costuming (Sarah Dicks) and lively choreography (Lula Nicholson). The ram-shackle, pointedly 2D Set Design (Phil Eddolls) harbours some nice key moments of surprise which clearly delighted the audience and pushed some of them audibly into hysterical laughter.
Peter Coyte’s Sound Design and Music, along with Lighting Design from Marcus Bartlett offer up consistently timely Acorn Antiques style cock-ups which of course play into the climbing exasperation of our director whose vision for the performance is worlds away from the actors ruining it all.
Characterisations are exaggerated beautifully and there’s bountiful stupidity among the most literal-minded of the ‘terrible’ cast. Roles are donned for increasingly swifter moments or even seconds, giving way to constant quick-changes which provide even more comedy fodder for the cast deliver with real zest.
Is it laugh-a-minute? They certainly work hard for it and while for me some of it was a little too on the predictable side to raise a laugh, there was much laughter throughout from the audience as a whole.
I’d love to be able to comment on individual performances but the company seems hell-bent on keeping it a Dracula-style mystery; first by having no programme and second by having nothing resembling a cast list on the website! It shall have to suffice to say that overall, it’s a very strong, very agile cast with some supreme comic timing on their side.
The chap playing the widest range of roles from Russian sailor to Scottish woman to Cockney to Yorkshire guy and best of all, the coy victim with a penchant for lip puckering, is by far and away the stand-out performer here though – I could watch him mucking around for hours and I hope to see more of him in the future.
Unashamedly filled to the gunnels with clichés, classic physical and scripted gags, buckets of energy and great timing, Dracula: the Bloody Truth is a show well worth seeing for those who have a slapstick funny bone and a love of the escapism provided by a conveyor belt of outlandish muck-ups and false-starts. I’d stress the point about hiking the age suitability to at least 10 but hey, kids are exposed to all sorts so early these days, many probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the comic gore and naughtiness!
The show continues to tour until 6th January 2019 and you can find tickets here.