★★★★ | Dracula, Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Jonathan Harker is a young lawyer in the employ of Dracula, who shows the Count his beautiful fiancé, Mina, and upon becoming obsessed by her, Dracula heads to the shores of England to seek her out. But following the murder of her best friend, Lucy, by the Count, Mina falls under his spell. But in an attempt to avenge the death of Lucy, Lucy’s suitors and Harker are assisted by vampire hunter, Van Helsing, to track down Dracula in a desperate attempt to save Mina from an undead eternity.
In this deliciously dark version of Dracula, from the opening moments of a naked Dracula stepping out of a coffin swirling in mist; through to the exhilarating and dramatic ending, Bram Stoker’s tale of obsessive love is brought to life by Northern Ballet who treat audiences to a lavish and spectacular gothic production.
The atmosphere created in the theatre was superb with the lavishly detailed, Tim Burton-esqe sets providing a beautiful and visually stimulating backdrop to the dancers, which included performers being lowered from the ceiling and raised up from the ground. The cleverly designed low level lighting added to the gothic gloom of the piece and the music further complimented the ambience with a mixture of sharp strings and angular sounds akin to the soundtrack to “Psycho”; set against a host of choral orchestrations, reminiscent of “The Omen”. As always the costumes were beautifully put together, with the female dancers flowing gowns adding to the almost dreamlike quality of the show.
Kevin Poeung provided the performance of the evening as asylum dweller, Renfield, who seems to have a strange connection with the Count. Poeung’s physical performance was energetic and contorted and contributed to one of the highlights of the show, namely the initial scene in Dr Jack Seward’s asylum. The engagement party was also a highlight, with the company dancing beautifully together. But the crescendo of the second act was the outstanding moment of the production with an ending which proved to be a breath-taking conclusion to the piece. Ashely Dixon also impressed throughout with his performance as Jonathan Hawker.
The ballet was a lot darker and slightly heavier going than Northern Ballet’s usual fare, but the slow burn of the first act and the drama of the second act make this a rewarding watch. For an exhilarating piece of theatre told with an accessible narrative, Dracula is a visually rich and beautifully gothic piece of ballet.
Dracula is currently being performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds until 13th September 2014. Tickets for Dracula can be booked at http://northernballet.com where you can also find out information about their upcoming productions for the Autumn/Winter season, many of which will be performed at different venues around the country.