Shake and Stir have tackled their most ambitious project so far, with "Dracula". As always, they have pitched their play astutely – with large numbers of young people at the performance, who may have learned (through such plays as 1984, Animal Farm, Tequila Mockingbird and A Mockingbird named Desire) to look forward to their productions, or who have been trained by "Twilight" to appreciate the glamorous macabre.
Vampire fiction just won't die – it is un-dead. Enjoying a major resurrection with the wildly popular Twilight motion pictures, television series True Blood, The Originals and The Vampire Diaries, there is no doubt that audiences today are as intrigued to all things macabre as their 19th century counterparts."
We look forward to plunging into the darkest recesses of our imagination and are excited about experimenting with some ultra-theatricality to achieve the mind-boggling, head-twisting, blood-spurting moments so vividly described in the novel," Nick Skubij (who plays the part of Dracula) adds, on the Shake and Stir site.
It is no surprise that they have had to extend their run from 13 August to 5 September and that includes a special one off midnight performance for those who do not fear going home in the dark.
Opening night was a triumph. It is always something of a razor's edge dilemma to teter between humour and melodrama and Shake and Stir get the balance just about perfectly.
They are well supported by their staging, lighting and sound. A revolving staircase with a space underneath serves as the set for a private home and a castle, a cave and a prison cell. The lighting gives just the right degree of sinister gloom. The music and the solemn narrator adds to the atmosphere.
And the plot?
Jonathon Harker (Tim Dashwood) is a neophyte lawyer, sent to Castle Dracula to complete the sale of a London house. He finds himself a prisoner, terrified by his host, Count Dracula, and unsure if he will ever manage to leave the castle alive, to be reunited with his fiancée, Mina (Nelle Lee). Dracula leaves the castle to go to London, believing that Jonathon will fall victim to resident vampites, and that he, Dracula, will feast on the blood of Jonathon's beloved. Will Count Dracula triumph? Will Mina succumb to his evil desires, and herself become one of the un-dead? Will the Professor (David Whitney) manage to put stakes through the hearts of the vampires before they infiltrate the whole of London? Or will Jonathon, Mina and the Professor fall before evil forces?
On the Professor's part the whole plot hangs. If he manages to have the authority to make us suspend our disbelief when he is tackling the forces of the un-godly, then all else will fall into place. And he does. Yes, we laugh at some of the melodrama, as we are meant to, but we are sucked into the tension as well, helped by the lighting, sound and set.
This is a terrific adaptation of Bram Stoker's book – by no means a slavish re-hash, but true to the spirit of the work. There are no weak actors, and the rapturous applause at the dénouement is well earned.
I hope this play tours throughout Australia, and beyond.
It may well be the best thing that "Shake and Stir" have done.
Shake & Stir Theatre co. and QPAC Present
By Bram Stoker
Created and adapted by Shake & Stir theatre co.
Adaptors Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij
Director Michael Futcher
Costume Designer Leigh Buchanan
Set Designer Josh McIntosh
Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright
Sound Designer Guy Webster
Featuring Ross Balbuziente, Tim Dashwood, Nelle Lee, Ashlee Lollback, Nick Skubij and David Whitney
WHEN: 13 August to 5 September 2015 WHERE: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank, Brisbane