“This could not end with evil neatly
Piled in ashes on the floor”
Christopher Wiseman, ‘Dracula’
If the Fringe were a nine-course meal, Let Them Call It Mischief’s Dracula would be a lemon-sorbet palette cleanser just before pudding. It won’t necessarily be the thing you remember long after the fact, but sometimes that’s just what’s needed. Especially in Edinburgh.
A ridiculous re-working of Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel, this Dracula wants not so much to spread the curse of the undead to England, as to use England’s living to lift his own curse. Failing to adore a youthful paramour more than his narcissistic self, Dracula’s then-lover—a witch, of course—cursed him with vampirism. Dracula can only break the curse if he falls in love with a sweaty-palmed gluten-intolerant English woman who can comprehend the incomprehensible rules of cricket. And you don’t find one of those in Transylvania. Naturally.
Dracula arrives in England, Jonathan Harker hot on his heels, where he meets Lucy and Mina and all the usual suspects–the five-strong company visibly knacker themselves (to the delight of the audience) character swapping at a clip. Where Alyssa Noble’s uninhabited Lucy and Karoline Gable’s feisty Mina advocate women’s suffrage, Rob Cummings’s nearly-feminist Count Dracula is a foil for the Victorian misogyny of Jack Ayres’s Harker and Lucy’s three suitors: asylum director, Dr. John Seward (also Rob Cummings), wet-blanket Arthur Holmwood (also Ayres), and ‘generic American’ Quincey Morris (played by the charismatic Graham Elwell). Armed with a hilariously-terrible Mittal-European accent, Elwell also tackles Van Helsing, the ‘Wampeerie’ slayer, who bitterly curses Dracula’s appearance as the arrival of England’s first invasive immigrant.
Although the entire cast are going full tilt, hamming it up to the nth degree, the occasional clever reference links the camp madness back to its original source. The opening scenes, where Harker travels to Transylvania to meet the Count, are written letters with voice-recorded narration, a neat reference to the epistolary format of Stoker’s text. Elsewhere, cultural (mostly pop) cross-pollination is rife, chiefly in the service of garnering laughs, mostly successfully. The female vampires at Dracula’s castle commence their seduction of Harker via a saucy Lady Marmalade dance number, Dracula woos a puppet version of Lucy (don’t ask) as Romeo in the famous balcony scene, and when Van Helsing and Dracula encounter each other for the first time, they’re singing to the tune of Jean Valjean and Javert’s ‘The Confrontation’. Why? Who knows. But we’re certainly cackling.
Dracula made its debut at Edinburgh in 2016 and it’s not difficult to understand why the production has returned. The script is well-honed, the cast are entertaining, the production is ridiculous, energetic and just plain fun. There’s always a place for shows like this at the Fringe. Somewhere between main and pudding.
Dracula is on at Pleasance Above until 27th August. More info here.