FOR a generation raised on Twilight and Buffy, the idea of the eternal undead is no surprise, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula continues to weave its fascination.
This week a group of 59 young performers aged between 12 and 19 are performing a new adaptation of the story by Oliver Birch as the 2013 Storm on the Lawn project performed in the sometimes menacing ball court at Prior Park College above Bath.
Cleverly weaving the present day with the original story of Jonathan Harker’s visit to Count Dracula in his Carpathian castle in the 1880s, this version underlines the universality of folk tales and the unchanging truths about human nature.
And as usual with a Storm on the Lawn show, it involves all the participants of the three week summer school in a feast of movement, sound, visual spectacle and drama.
I saw just one, large, bat sweep across the auditorium on the opening night, but four Draculas were on stage, allowing the tension to build as they appeared from where they should not be to exert their irresistible power over all who came in their range.
It all started as 21st century lawyers Paul (Toby Underwood) and Belle (Flossie Ure) arrived in Transylvania looking for the source of a mysterious letter that had arrived in their high-powered London office. The paper had apparently been written 130 or so years before, and uncovered by a strange janitor called Igor.
But when their Romanian contact Dragos Lupie (an energetic performance by Milo Morris) turned up and questioned the scared cleaner, she revealed many more papers, already distributed among her friends and neighbours.
And then the hunt was on to piece together the true story, and before midnight. Tomorrow was the day when, according to local legend, all the evil in the world would be unleashed.
The glib and suave Londoners soon found their preconceptions wobbled as the story swooped to its inevitable conclusion.
“That was a nice ending” said one proud parent on the way out, evidently not having listened to the words at all.
Listening to the words was sometimes a bit of a problem, as the inexperienced cast were surprised by the sound-absorbent qualities of an audience in an outdoor arena.
But the whole thing was a terrific spectacle, played against one of the most atmospheric settings ever.
And in a strong ensemble, Aysha Taylor’s performance as the undead Lucy, Mae Hawkins as the peculiar Van Helsing, Sky Carruthers’ anguished Renfield and Jacob Bishop-Ponte were particularly memorable.
There are perforances until Sunday, including late night shows for added atmosphere.