Left – Stewart Reeve as The Grim Reaper
Vaudeville is alive and well and still sinking its fangs into fresh new talent at Dracula’s. Or maybe that should be ‘undead’.
Few venues have kept the theatre restaurant theme going for as long as this Carlton venue, while staying successful enough to expand up to the Gold Coast. Founded by John and Tikki Newman more than 30 years ago (and now run by a host of second-generation Newmans), the 1860s Gothic venue on Victoria Street seats 300 and was fully booked for the first few nights of the Cabaret Festival, despite the Bloodbath show actually opening late last year.
Bloodbath fits brilliantly within the Cabaret Festival styling – a true variety act combining live music, acrobatics, sensual burlesque, camp circus, stand-up comedy, puppetry and some of the most talented wait staff you could wish for.
It is all presented in a slick, well-rehearsed style at an upbeat pace that keeps the place buzzing, plus enough saucy raillery, G strings and sequins to keep any warm-blooded spectator’s interest piqued.
It is a suitably balanced combination of music, awe and slapstick, although less structured thematically than it could have been.
Its multitalented staff make the show work from the moment you line up outside; the warm-up gags and cheeky banter might not be an original idea but the delivery is so affable and unaffected that even the steely cynics grizzling about being kept out on one of Melbourne’s coldest, windiest nights appeared to melt a little.
Turns out the warm-up guys are also the musical director David Small (Fang) and his offsider Frank Kerr (Sting), who between them play bass, double bass, lead and rhythm guitar, drums, clarinet, percussion and vocals. Oh – and they also perform one of the standout clown acts of the night, involving black-light puppetry, an enormous concertina-d penis and a large-breasted zombie.
In between, guests are whisked up stairways and along corridors, into a neon-light bar full of stuffed critters and underfloor skeletons, where drinks glow and VIP guests are welcomed with champagne and hors d’oeuvres, through to a ghost train ride that delivers you to the main restaurant/venue.
From here scantily clad and multi-tattooed staff deliver a three-course meal and much banter (and more neon drinks, some in the most incredible receptacles) until the show begins.
In between incidental acts of theatre delivered by the floor staff and the most enthusiastic musical intro I’ve ever seen, there are precious few quiet moments to get to know your table companions – unless you’re in a large group you’re likely to be sharing a table – but the show seems especially popular with visitors from interstate or overseas. While Dracula’s does run kids parties too, this show is strictly 18+.
The food was unexpectedly good and the electronic ordering system appears pretty faultless, but with good-natured staff having so much fun around you it seems impossible even the grouchiest customer would bother to complain, even should they could find cause.
Acts include former gymnast Lauren Skopalova, aerialist Jessica Robbins and all-rounder Stewart Reeve as the MC, Diamond (whose Grim Reaper sketch is a standout).
If you have the urge to fill a spare evening with at least three solid hours of fun and titillation, try sinking your fangs into this.
by Marc Newman
Directed by Haydie Newman
Venue: Dracula’s Melbourne | 100 Victoria Street, Carlton
Dates: Now playing – daily except Sundays and Mondays
Tickets: $85 – $115