Atmospheric and intriguing
By Rachel Holkner
Dracula is a character who requires no introduction, no commentary and, one might think, no new stories. Dracula: The Last Voyage of the Demeter proves otherwise. This new play by Sean Carney fills a tiny gap in the story we know so well, providing an explanation for what happened on the ship Demeter before its arrival at Whitby.
Set entirely in the ship’s hold with the chained vampire holding court, various members of the crew and passengers descend the ladder out of necessity or curiosity. There Dracula does what psychopaths do best: charm them in to revealing more about themselves than they intended. Tension builds as the unseen crew of the ship, slowly at first, then with impossible rapidity, are murdered or vanish.
Carney’s writing is assured, but occasionally misses a step through basic anachronisms or overt exposition. There is no humour to this dark tale of human flaws, yet the dialogue is scattered with truly clever language and witty notes which effectively relieve the strained atmosphere.
Gregory Caine as Count Dracula pulls the story along beautifully, commanding the stage faultlessly. Unfortunately this only highlights the rather static performances of the other players who rarely change the pitch of their rather one-note characters. Mumbling Nichols (Matthew Elliot) was unfortunately incomprehensible at times, while Captain Atkins (Robin Darch) suffered a similarly wobbly accent.
As the characters descend in turn to bargain with the captive monster the play becomes repetitive, due in part to static stage direction. Ineffective use of the space grew tiring to watch. Surely the single chair could be moved to elsewhere on the stage to provide a little relief. I feel opportunities were also missed by director Ashley Tardy to utilise the terrific staircase into the performance space that the venue provides.
Celina Mack as young Elizabeth and Stephanie Daniel as her mother Jessica make an excellent partnership, effectively portraying that relationship. I would have liked to see Gabriel Bergmoser as Gibson and Chris Grant‘s Hopkins have an opportunity to play off each other a little more too as their characters were so at odds with each other.
Effective set dressing and costuming set an impressive claustrophobic atmosphere of a ship’s hold to the venue; audio effects and of course theatrical smoke to represent the fog set the audience well inside the story before the play even began.
Dracula: Last Voyage of the Demeter is the perfect piece to head to as a respite from the Comedy Festival.
Thursdays to Saturday from April 13-22
Club Voltaire, North Melbourne