A BBC-TV broadcast version of a lavish production – a Leeds Playhouse staging of a ballet devised by David Nixon – with high gothic classical music, spare but impressive sets (and not too much fog to obscure the dancers), and a few tweaks to the Stoker storyline. A ballet-on-TV convention followed in part here is to preface the acts with brief synopses of the action since without dialogue it’s sometimes tricky to work out who is who and what’s going on even – and, in this case, especially – with a story that everyone knows by heart.
The big change (slightly influenced by the 1979 Frank Langella films) is that Mina (Abigail Prudames) falls in love with Dracula, who reciprocates by hesitating before biting her. After the menfolk have destroyed the Count and are congratulating themselves, she ends the piece by cutting her throat. Usually, Mina’s love is semi-redemptive for the vampire if the adaptation takes that route – here, she’s so far under the spell of the fatal man that she gets destroyed too, which is I think unique in Dracula stagings. In a glitch (perhaps?), the first two acts get synopses – but act three doesn’t, which means that the shock ending actually is a surprise. However, part of the necessary pruning – losing the voyage of the Demeter, for instance, and not having the Count feed a baby to his brides – means that this Dracula isn’t quite a villain. He turns Lucy into a vampire, which isn’t quite the same as killing her and here isn’t presented as enslaving her – so it’s the spoilsport vampire killers who come across as unreasonable.
Old Dracula (Riku Uto) is introduced as a bald Nosferatish type with a puffy red collar – he does a spectacular bit of crawling-down-the-castle-wall – replaced by Young D (Javier Torres, who may be the most muscle guy version of Dracula since the star of Gayracula) for the rest of the action, which involves a lot of impressive, matador-like cape work and frequent spells of shirtlessness. With Antoinette Brooks-Daw (Lucy), Lorenzo Trossello (Jonathan Harker), Joseph Taylor (Dr Seward), Matthew Koon (Arthur), Kevin Poeung (Renfield, lowered in occasionally in a cage), Ashley Dixon (Van Helsing) and Rachael Gillespie, Sarah Chun, Minju Kang (as the Brides). Quincey is cut, possibly so the three younger vampire slayers can each get dancing vampire partners in the brides (though Stoker probably intended a parallel between Lucy’s three suitors and Dracula’s three brides – with Jonathan and Mina as add-ons).
Lots more singing, dancing, soliloquising Draculas to come.