Left – Joel Sammuels. Photo – Lizzy Wharton
Dracula opens, as any good gothic tale ought to, in a sanatorium just far enough away from Victorian London for anyone to hear any screams. It is here that Dr Seward (Stephen Platt) has been caring for his daughter Lucy (Toni Vernon), who has been struggling with a mysterious affliction for some time now. Despite the undying support of Jonathan Harker (Phillip Hutton), Lucy’s betrothed, and the pledged assistance of Seward’s friendly new neighbour (Joel Sammuels), Seward has called in a great favour from the famous Professor Van Helsing (Jason Dohle). What unfolds is the stuff of legend…literally!
It has been my personal experience that gothic plays are not often produced in Perth. Perhaps this is a result of the artistic culture, or perhaps it is a question of drawing audiences. However, this contribution to Murdoch Theatre Company’s run of “The Gothics” showed great promise.
The production quality on this show was really quite a stand out, the attention to detail on the set was especially impressive. It was obvious how much care went into selecting everything that went on stage, or what was incorporated into the costuming, nothing looked out of place at all, the world really was created on the stage.
As far as the standard of acting goes within this production, I honestly find it a little difficult to comment. Certainly, there were no bad performances. However, I believe that the style of show demanded a style of acting that we do not often see on the stage very often. By the very nature of the play, actors were required to respond or behave in a manner which, while understandable, was not entirely relatable… certainly at an emotional level… perhaps this speaks more about the script than it does about the production. Within a two hour play about horror and violence, the comic relief, in the form of Butterworth (Alex McVey), was a most welcome character, this role was played to an absolute tee.
Considering the type of play that this is, the sound and lighting really needed to be well thought through, and perfectly executed. The gothic genre really gets by on mystique and intrigue, it is as much about what the audience knows, as it is about what they don’t know… In this sense, the technical design of this production really had a lot of work to do. For the most part, I believe that many of the theatre’s facilities were used to great effect. No less work and effort went into this component of the production than any other… there was simply no room for error.
This production really did make me ask the question: does gothic theatre have an important place on the Australian stage… which is exactly what I believe Murdoch Theatre Company’s season is also asking… maybe their audience can give them an answer.
Murdoch Theatre Company present
by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderman
Director John King
Venue: Nexus Theatre, Murdoch University WA
Dates: 7 – 9 July 2016