Based on the original novel by Bram Stoker
Written and Directed by Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks
Conceptually, an alternate reality in which histories vilest, most callous monsters were stopped before their atrocities were committed isn’t a rarity – but seldom is it performed well, or with a degree of regard and understanding of lucrative storytelling. And in the pantheon of retellings of the Dracula narrative, even rarer is it to find one with a competent female protagonist. Imitation Dog’s Dracula: The Untold Story is not only a piece to sink one’s teeth into – it is a rousing success of adaptation, heralding the gothic masterpiece into a contemporary joy of prophetic warning, revenge and digital aesthetic.
Where Bram Stoker’s novel places the male protagonists at its epicentre – this unblemished retelling shifts the dynamic and places emphasis on Mina Harker. In the 1960s, a time when serial killings in England are on the rise, Mina Harker hands herself into police custody, confessing to a spree of decades of murder. The rightly sceptical detective and female officer first write off the tale, but gradually, as illustrative patterns emerge and significant details of the cases unveil – their blood runs cold as reality takes a backseat, the macabre supernatural unfolding.
Synchronizing digital storytelling in a sumptuously blended manner, the three performers onstage rise to the task of not only controlling a stage but commanding the screen. The onstage performances are performed both to a retrospective audience but also captured on camera where they are projected onto the canvas behind – ready to be distorted and treated to push into the graphic novel aesthetic. And though technically it sounds complex or even distracting, the result is one of the most innovative ways of storytelling demonstrated. Enabling alterations of expectation and reality, to impose super-strength, flight, and other supernature gifts.
This ceaseless shifting of perspective destabilises audience perceptions, advancing the innovative and almost intoxicating nature of artistic production further. Caught in the betwixt and between, unsure of reality and the shifting shadows – like Mina, the audience struggles with the difficulties the narrative poses of how to exist in a world where infection dominates and the complexities of rejecting, and overcoming evil.
Riana Duce’s Mina takes short effort in demonstrating the weight on her shoulders, a grounded and visceral performance. In a realm where gothic tendencies can be tempting, Duce’s straight performance under Quick and Brooks direction accelerates the pacing, allowing audiences to buy into the worldbuilding with relish and ease. What’s more, the palpable anguish in Duce’s voice, the inner struggle and debates over her actions lift the production out of the realms of exploitation, and into something profoundly more intelligent.
Simon Wainwright’s video direction and projection aids in framing Mina, also doing wonders for Adela Rajovic and Matt Prendergast, whose positions as multiple characters throughout history are sold in the conviction of performance, but Wainwright’s mixed media proficiency. Dipping in and out of roles, the conviction and individualism from both Rajovic and Prendergast is extraordinary and brings additional requirements of comedy to the performance, Prendergast making a rather brilliantly disbelieving Detective who slowly comes to his senses.
The trio of performers are cast well against Laura Hopkins ingenious, and remarkably simple, design work and Andrew Crofts lighting which finds no joy in subtlety. Dracula: The Untold Story takes its aesthetical origins from the pages of graphic novels quite literally, colour abound for the gothic piece, revitalising the story in ways never before contemplated. And while there are still drips of blood and splashes of macabre black, the overall tone of the production has far more depth to its palette.
For the definitive tale of the undead, Dracula: The Untold Story bursts with vigour and life, an exceptional transmedia being of live theatre and cinematics. Empowering characters who have taken a backseat for too long, Andrew Quicks and Pete Brooks production channels all of the ghoulish delight of Nosferatu and infuses it within the pages of a contemporary piece. Innovative, thought-provoking, with excellence in performance and ingenuity, Dracula: The Untold Story has the mindset to back up its creative wonderment and the fangs to grasp onto audiences.
Dracula: The Untold Story has select tour dates, and is available to stream. Tickets for which can be obtained here.