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Dracula

Tonight a huge gang of us went out to see Dracula at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

I'd been to the Grand Opera House previously, for a performance of Iphigénie en Tauride, so I knew the territory: it has to be the most gaudy, over-the-top theatre I have ever seen in my life. It belongs to the full-blown 'Empress of India' phase of the Victorian period, and hence the chief theme of the internal décor is a series of enormous gilded elephants' heads, set off nicely by many-limbed goddesses, meringue-shaped turrets and a lavish painted ceiling.

So I treated it as an opportunity to get all dolled up myself. I wore the hugh puffy purple skirt which I acquired recently at the Rusty Zip (and which I've now successfully washed), and a beautiful Victorian-looking long black jacket, designed precisely for wear over a very full skirt, which kantti gave me when she moved out of Oxford. I haven't really had a skirt which was big enough to wear under that coat yet, but now that I have, they make a perfect pairing.

Most of my companions were Goths, and hence had similarly leaped at an occasion for dressing up. We were getting amazed and admiring looks from strangers, and we knew we deserved them! (Pictures should follow later, thanks to damien_mocata and his digital camera).

The play itself was actually extremely good. They'd taken the bold step of setting it in 2005, and the characters had therefore heard of Count Dracula... but nonetheless behaved much as the Victorian characters did anyway, since they were quite convinced that vampires were the stuff of movies and comic books. This is actually not such a great liberty to take with Stoker's original novel, since his Victorian characters are themselves sceptical of Van Helsing when he tries to tell them about Dracula because they also can't believe that anything so obviously medieval could possibly exist in their modern world of trains, telegrams and typewriters.

Another effect of the chronological shift was that the stage play's characters were all emailing and texting each other all the time, instead of writing letters and sending telegrams. This was handled nicely in itself, and indeed made into a positive boon. The stage set included two large screens which displayed the emails as they were being written, as well as a few web pages which the characters were looking at, and also images of things like pumping blood, swirling mist, wolves' heads or smashing glass from time to time to add to the stage effects. Also, Arthur, Quincey, John Seward and Jonathan Harker all flew over to Transylvania towards the end, rather than getting the train, while Mina was enough of a 21st century woman to actually dispatch Dracula herself at the end.

But these are all naught but extensions of Stoker's own themes - I actually re-read the novel last June, and noted at the time that Stoker's book is filled with the latest technology of his day, and that it is instrumental to helping 'the goodies' (as they were mockingly called by Dracula at one point in tonight's play) defeat him. Similarly, Mina is portrayed by Stoker very much as a strong and modernistic figure, and he quite clearly shows that the effects of the men in the novel cutting her out of their plans to defeat Dracula are disastrous for them and her. In fact, despite the change of period, the play this evening was actually the closest adaptation of Stoker's novel I have ever seen, in any medium (and I've seen a few, let me tell you), in terms of plot, structure, characterisation and dialogue. And I liked that, because it has become such established practice to change the story in any adaptation of Dracula that to play it essentially straight, albeit with modernisations and a nice dose of self-refentiality, is now innovative in itself.

Of course, dressing up for a night at the theatre and the pleasures of watching an excellent stage adaptation of Dracula were only part of the fun. For the play also featured the acting talents of both Colin Baker as Van Helsing, and Richard Bremmer (Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) as Dracula himself. So afterwards, damien_mocata led us on an expedition to the stage door, where a bunch of us hung around, waiting for the cast to come out. The people who'd played Quincey Morris, Lucy, Mrs. Westenra and others filtered out, to little or no notice from us, and then Colin Baker emerged, to be greeted (pity the man!) by a dozen Goths applauding him.

We gathered around to get programmes, tickets and CD-inlays signed (and to fail miserably to produce a decent pen amongst us), while he indulged us kindly. And then we did the same for Richard Bremmer - who was one of the last to get out due to having to remove his rather more excessive make-up. My personal trophy for the evening is here:

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Finally, it was back in three car-loads to my place, to see this evening's Doctor Who and generally hoot loudly with laughter, do Dalek impressions and throw Creme Eggs on the floor (lordy, I do hope my landlords don't read this journal!).

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
aletharch
May. 29th, 2005 06:27 am (UTC)
That sounds like a thoroughly good production. And yay! Colin Baker! I saw him onstage at my local theatre in a wonderful bedroom farce, the cast of which also included Gordon Kaye from 'Allo 'Allo and Trevor Bannister from Are You Being Served. Baker played the Ubiquitious Bumptious Hotel Manager, and he got his trousers pulled down at one point.

And good for you for that icon! Ah, Vampira...
strange_complex
May. 29th, 2005 12:04 pm (UTC)
Ah, and you have Bela to match! Beautiful.
davesangel
May. 29th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a very interesting production, pity I missed it but too tired to go out :)

For the play also featured the acting talents of both Colin Baker as Van Helsing, and Richard Bremmer (Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) as Dracula himself.

Thanks for clearing this up - several people on and off LJ have been telling me for WEEKS that Colin Baker played Dracula. Even though he doesn't have the physique for it, and many newspapers (as well as the GoH) mentioned that he'd be playing Van Helsing. But whenever I mentioned this to people, I was told incessantly that no, the Grand Opera House didn't know what they were talking about and that he'd be Dracula. Odd...

What did you think of Doctor Who, by the way?
strange_complex
May. 29th, 2005 02:08 pm (UTC)
No, he was definitely Van Helsing!

Doctor Who was good. I may watch it again later, because although watching it with lots of friends is good, it can mean you miss important lines. I do agree with your point about the obvious joy the Doctor shows when the nanogenes figure out how to heal humans properly, rather than turn them into zombies, though! And I also liked the handling of the bisexual theme with Jack Harkness.

Oh, and I didn't think there was a direct Bad Wolf refernce either... but you just reminded me to check out some of the BBC's Doctor Who 'spoof' sites, and check this out! And yes, 'Schlechter' does mean what you think it means! ;)
sir_didymus
May. 29th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC)
I missed saturdays Dr Who, however meeting Colin Baker was more than worth it.

I had a good time, thanks.
strange_complex
May. 29th, 2005 08:23 pm (UTC)
Don't thank me - I'm the one that forgot to buy you a ticket in the first place! But seriously, I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes - real-life COlin Baker makes up for missed TV Christopher Eccleston, I think.
meerium
May. 31st, 2005 10:23 am (UTC)
have you videoed dr who, by chance? and if so, could i borrow sometime this week? roger and i were at the gig at customs house square, and we forgot to tape it.
strange_complex
May. 31st, 2005 11:14 am (UTC)
Yes, I did actually, and yes, you can! I'll be home by 6:30 this evening, so I can tape Hitch-Hiker's, so you could pop round any time after that an pick it up if you like. Or any other evening this week, but I can't guarantee to be home so early the other nights.

You've been round to my street before, haven't you, but just in case, it's Cussick St. (opposite the end of Tate's Avenue), and my flat is no. 1 (there's a bell by the gate).
meerium
May. 31st, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
oh, you total star! i'm meeting a friend after work, but i still have some odds and sods of thesis type stuff to be doing, so i won't be out too late. will you be in between 8pm and 9pm?
strange_complex
May. 31st, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, definitely! See you later.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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