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TheatreDraculaKen Longworth

STIRRING: Experience the shake & stir treatment of Dracula at the Civic Theatre on March 17. WHEN Brisbane theatre company shake & stir staged a new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel Dracula in 2015 many audience members went online saying they’d had “a bloody good time”.
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While that was intended as a joking response to the show, it also reflected the enthusiasm this Dracula produced among those who saw it. The season quickly sold out.

shake & stir is remounting the show for a seven-month tour that will take it to 44 venues throughout , including Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on March 17.

The company, which specialises in developing stage works from demanding stories, previously brought acclaimed versions of George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984 to the Civic, with those watching riveted by the onstage action.

The story was adapted by two of the actors, Nick Skubij and Nelle Lee. Skubij plays Count Dracula, a Transylvanian autocrat who buys properties in London and journeys to there in search of new blood. Lee is Mina, a London teacher and the fiancée of Jonathan Harker (Tim Dashwood), a young lawyer who goes to Transylvania to discuss the management of the properties and finds himself as being more than just a guest at dinner. Harker barely escapes with his life.

The other characters include Mina’s friend, Lucy (Ashlee Lollback), who is stalked by Dracula, and John Seward (Ross Balbuziente), a doctor and one of Lucy’s suitors. David Whitney has won praise for the two very different people he plays: Abraham Van Helsing, a doctor, lawyer and professor who joins Seward, one of his former students, in hunting for vampires, and Renfield, a mentally disturbed patient of Seward whose behaviour includes eating insects he captures and who comes under the influence of Dracula. Renfield’s habits contribute dark humour to the story.

Bram Stoker’s novel was written in 1897 and Dracula’s director, Michael Futcher, has retained the late 19th century setting, with the actors wearing the era’s elegant garb and a much-praised set showing how swiftly a performance can move from one venue to another.

And, as Tim Dashwood noted in an interview, the idea of vampires is not common knowledge in this story. “So when peoples’ blood is seemingly sucked, and they are pale and have bite marks on their neck, our characters look to natural causes,” he said. “Part of the play is convincing them that there are darker things in the realms of man.”

Dracula has performances at the Civic Theatre on Friday, March 17, at 11am and 8pm. Tickets: $48, concession $42, subscriber $38, youth (15-21) $30, family (two adults, two children $140. Bookings: 4929 1977.

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