Minstead is a village in the New Forest. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried there. Like many communities, it has a lively local theatre scene and a ‘locally famous’ pantomime is staged annually by the Junior Minstead group. In 2015, they mounted a Dracula-related pantomime – a record of which, in a typical filmed-from-the-back-of-the-hall, can be found on Youtube.
If you want to go down a pantomime rabbit hole and are a completist in other fandoms, they did Doctor Who in 2007 …
Star Wars in 2016 …
… and, ambitiously, Doyle’s The White Company in 2009.
With a cast ranging from tiny infants to teenagers, their Dracula is crowded and strange. Scripted by Wendy Hague and Jo Vardy, with (excellent) music by Marian Young, it’s very much in the UK panto mode incomprehensible to non-Brits – with an old woman played by a young man, cheery routines about corrupt policemen, signs indicating when to cheer or boo, twin fairies who hurry the plot along and sprinkle dust, and a climactic musical battle, where the audience have to sing along from cue cards..
A slender plot involves local top-hatted, moustachoed villain Hemo Globin’s search for three keys to the Van Dread treasure, which is concealed in the local castle where Dracula is living in peaceful retirement under the alias Major Artery and his son Minor Artery dreams of being a pop star. Globin arranges local disappearances to discredit ‘you know who’, so the police have instituted a curfew which ruins business at the local pub, run by the dame – Mrs Van Helsing – and her daughter Buffy. A catalyst for all sorts of things is the arrival of the team from the TV show Scare Factor and girl group Vamp Direction, but that’s mostly to get some pop culture and topical gags into an array of groaner jokes (there’s even a montage of ‘doctor doctor’ gags), impromptu songs, local references (a jibe about the local super-fast broadband gets a big laugh) and non sequiturs (Minor Artery’s tiny sidekick is dressed as Batgirl).
Not all the performers are great at projecting, but their intended audience was family members, friends and neighbours in the Village Hall rather than Dracula completists haunting the internet for seasonal entries in an ongoing series … so they can be forgiven. Anyone who’s watched a video record of a community play will be familiar with the phenomenon whereby stage dialogue is muffled but audience reactions aren’t because the in-camera mike is at the back of the hall. Some of the charm is unintentional – I thought the love interests who are embarrassed to get within feet of each other were sweet. It ends with a big routine set to Thriller, with all the cast crammed on a tiny stage. Dracula, rather surprisingly, doesn’t get much to do.