December has many good traditions. Christmas carols? Good. A time of peace and hope for all mankind? Good. Mulled wine? Very good. But there are few traditions that I look forward to as much as the madcap mashups that the Wardrobe Theatre put together every year, and this one is a real treat. Drac & Jill, as the name suggests, is a combination of the tale of vampiric Count Dracula, and nursery rhyme Jack & Jill, telling a twisted tale in the depths of Transylvania.
One of the strengths of the show is how it draws in so many other references from across pop culture, layering around this odd-couple of central references nods to touchstones of horror, Christmas and film both new and old. The most obvious of these as you enter the space is the set, where wooden walls radiate out from a central coffin and sun, and are bedecked with paintings reminiscent of those in recent horror hit Midsommar. The set is absolutely gorgeous, but the paintings are also filled with jokes and references from the show, as well as covering hatches and hideaways that are used to great effect. Immediately, this sets the tone for the show – utter silliness combined with a real sense of craft.
The plot painted on and performed between these walls follows Sister Frances (Alice Lamb as a well-meaning nun rather too inclined to violence) and Mina Harker (Caitlin Campbell as a well-meaning English lady rather too inclined to patronisation) as they set out on a quest to find the legendary Van Helsing (Tom Fletcher) and defeat Dracula before Harker’s fianee is transformed into a vampire. Along the way we get Bon Jovi sing-alongs, the most heartbreaking Love, Actually spoof I’ve ever seen, and a whole lot of sexual yearning. And above it all hangs the long, hard shadow of Dracula, played by Corina Buchan as a perfect spoof of the charming and seductive villain, strutting around the stage with sass and a strap-on.
There are a million little highlights, often coming from pushing a joke just a little further than you think it can go, but my personal favourite moment has to be our introduction to the convent where Frances lives. Blending together the tropes of an American high school film, an absolute bop from composer Jack Drewry, and more bible puns than you could shake a wimple at, it perfectly sets the tone of joyous weirdness.
The one place where, for me, the jokes don’t quite land as well are in some of the audience participation sections, which sometimes rely on oft-used gambits to make audience members a little uncomfortable rather than the bizarre and wonderful flights of fancy seen on stage. But even if these moments don’t sit as well, they’re small stumbles, soon forgotten amongst airborne battles, vampiric rhythm gymnastics, and gloriously DIY special effects.
Whether you’re feeling festive, or already ready to stake Santa in the heart, Drac & Jill is a giddy delight, and the ultimate alternative Christmas fare.
Drac & Jill is at the Wardrobe Theatre until 19th January. For more info here.