Review: Nosferatu at the Etcetera Theatre, London

Wednesday 26th October 2022 at Etcetera Theatre, London


Reviewer: Issy Flower

As we near the end of spooky season, London’s fringe theatres are thronged with ghost stories and classic horror adaptations, that either aim to be transformative reimaginings of the classics or a bit of fun—a spoofy, spooky send-up of a well-known text. Theatre Non Grata’s Nosferatu falls into the second category, and largely present a very silly and enjoyable take on the age-old vampire tale.

Very loosely adapted from the already very loosely adapted from Dracula 1922 film Nosferatu, the play follows English couple Phillip and Margaret Hutter and their friend Doctor Van Helsing as they travel to Transylvania, summoned to the Castle of the mysterious Count Orlok.

Fans of the film will already see the mismatch here, and it’s certainly not a play to come to for an accurate adaptation of its source—the show is more inspired by, and playful with, the film’s iconography than wanting to delve into its themes and resonances. Despite this, many of the strongest elements of the show are when it hews close to its silent film origins in hilarious music-driven physical comedy scenes, which are beautifully timed and incredibly funny, if occasionally a bit too long and repetitive.

Similarly, moments of undermining Count Orlock (Samuel Leaver, capturing Max Schreck’s physicality perfectly) work because they are parodying a clear character, rather than loose concept of ‘haunted house’ or ‘horny woman’. Elsewhere, jokes seem unsure as to whether they want to go the Carry On Screaming route or Treehouse of Horror, leaving the show in a horny hinterland where refusal to commit to full parody or influence makes the play untethered.

This is not to deny the talents of the cast, who carry the show and all have impeccable comic timing. The standout performance is Jessica Olim’s Van Helsing, an addition to the show that makes sense and adds comic excellence, particularly in a new homoerotic subplot. The rest of the cast (Henry Charnock, Eleanor Homer, Samuel Leaver) also excel, fully committing to the ridiculousness. They are a fantastic group of comic actors to spend an hour with, full of potential.

Nosferatu is a collection of jolly japes and Vampire gags wearing the name of the movie—which is no bad thing, as the majority of these japes are well-performed, entertaining and very funny. Some greater engagement with the specifics of the source material, as well as more variety and commitment to the type of jokes in the piece, would let the production stake a claim to greatness.

Nosferatu plays the Etcetera Theatre, London until October 31st 2022 – you can find more information and tickets here.

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