Dracula, Rabbit Theatre on tour with Artsreach, Gillingham School

playsdracula2DAVID Mynne is a master at his craft, and his craft is acting. That craft includes all aspects of acting, including verse-speaking, singing, whistling, mime, oral sound effects, character playing, accents, physical representation, dramatic interpretation and countless other skills, all brought together to tell a tale familiar to most of the audience, in a style which has brought true drama and emotion to audiences for thousands of years.

We may have been sitting in a drama studio in Gillingham, but we could just as well have been in an Anglo Saxon roundhouse hearing the tale of Beowulf, a Victorian theatre with Charles Dickens recreating his characters before us, or for those of us fortunate enough to have experienced it, at Hackney Empire in the 1990s for Steven Berkoff’s retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, with its beating heart represented by a constantly opening and closing fist.

Mynne is a founder member of that great company Kneehigh Theatre, and it is only thanks to funding by local arts bodies such as Artsreach that people in rural areas can experience something that would usually only be seen at Edinburgh, or just off London’s West End or Broadway. The tale of Dracula has been developed to an extreme, from the Christopher Lee Hammer films to all the Hollywood interpretations, and of course the recent spate of teenage vampire books and their film adaptations, most famously the Twilight franchise.

It is so refreshing then to hear the story anew, with many of the words from Stoker’s novel forming part of the dramatisation, as Mynne switches seemlessly from narrator to character, and across many characters, from tiny cameos such as the Transylvanian landlady, through a chorus of undead wives, hero, heroine, psychiatrist, ship’s captain, the extremely Dutch Van Helsing, six nuns (count them!) and of course the magnificent Count himself, with a haunting, breathy, Eastern European accent.  Along the way we are also treated to appropriate whistled tunes, the howling of wolves, props that are always ready, cut-out bats and a ship, and the surge of the sea rushing in and out like deep breathing.

These magical effects are all produced vocally, in real time, with no recording or electronic trickery, and every part of the simple but oh so accurately positioned and focused lighting is controlled by the actor, who is even bold enough to step completely out of his role once or twice, as he realises the innuendo in a particular scene involving a group of nuns and gives a barely mumbled aside of “comedy gold” as he reveals his giant bat.

This was a wonderful couple of hours of complete escape from everyday life, as we were taken on the scary journey from Transylvania to Whitby, and once there to the Asylum, the cliff top, and the mysterious Carfax Abbey, all peopled by a cast of many, many individually memorable characters, all played, controlled, lit and accompanied by that one, very talented Mr David Mynne.

The show is at Ibberton and Broadmayne at the end of the week, and then off to Cumbria, Staffordshire and Warwickshire, among other places, and if you hear of this incredible man going anywhere near you or any of your friends, I urge you to see it – you will be thoroughly entertained and delighted.


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