NODA REVIEW: The House Of Dracula

Reviewed at The Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford on Friday 3rd November 2017

This was my first visit to this intimate theatre, home to a Society that has gained a reputation for performing award winning productions.

A foyer dressed with cobwebs and looking suitably spooky set the scene perfectly for the production we had come to see.  But first there was a warm welcome and pre-show drinks in the small but perfectly formed bar on the first floor.  This gave us an opportunity to chat with Chairman John Mabey who gave us an insight into this rather unique building which the Society is fortunate enough to own.

On entering the auditorium the audience was greeted with an open stage displaying a terrific set, executed in great detail to represent a macabre looking fortress in Transylvania.  A small flight of stairs at the back of the set led, we are told, to the bedrooms and there were suitable drapes, strategically placed lamps and ‘cobwebs’ aplenty.  A large and very hairy spider was suspended from the ceiling ready to be slowly lowered onto the unsuspecting guests.  The whole thing was so atmospheric.  Just right for Halloween!

One by one the characters arrived on set, all having received an invite to come and stay, but not really sure why.  I must say here that all the characters were very well portrayed, no weak links in this production.

Terry Cramphorn and Hannah Burton as Baron Victor and Baroness Elizabeth von Frankenstein are first to arrive and look suitably surprised to find no-one to greet them.  They have brought with them their old retainers, Ygor (Martin Robinson) and Frau Lurker (Christine Davidson) both of whom played their roles with great conviction.

There were other strong performances from Dean Hempstead as Count Dracula and Carrie Ann Shirtcliffe as the Countess. Leanne Young gave a lovely performance as Isabel Channing and needn’t have worried about her American accent.  It sounded just fine to me!  I felt that Ben Fraser as werewolf Henry Talbot could have slowed down a little during his longer stretches of dialogue.  Apart from that, very good.

Callum Prior was very animated and suitably scary as Ka-Seet and Caroline Dunsmuir really seemed to relish her role as Ethel, Bride of Dracula.

There were so many good performances in this production but in my opinion there is one actor who deserves a special mention, and that is Dave Hawkes.  His portrayal of The Doctor can only be described as superb.  The switching between Jekyll and Hyde, together with the other demands of this energetic role were a joy to watch and the audience did not hold back in showing their appreciation which was very well deserved.

The costumes, many of which were hired in from The Costume Store were very authentic and the production was complimented by excellent sound effects, lighting and incidental music courtesy of Roger Mannion (lighting) and Ian Ransom (sound).  Well done both.

Under the direction of Iain Holding-Sutton, this extremely prolific society produced yet another show to be proud of.

Decia Ranger

NODA East, District 7

on behalf of Christine Davidson – District 8

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