BWW Review: DRACULA: THE BLOODY TRUTH , Exeter Northcott Theatre
Exeter based Le Navet Bete have teamed up with the Exeter Northcott Theatre to present a unique play about the world's most famous vampire. The company, which specialises in physical theatre, has stumbled upon a surefire hit with their Dracula adaptation, coupling ghoulish goingson with hilarious horseplay to make a comedy show worthy of the highest plaudits.
We are invited to join Professor Abraham Van Helsing as he journeys across Europe with his hapless amateur theatre group. The devoted vampire hunter imparts his version of events, while dismissing Bram Stoker's account of the notorious bloodsucker and, in doing so, along with his inept performers, commits to ensuring we are fully "educated not entertained" by the horror of what really happened.
Of course, you only have to look at the name of the theatre company to get some idea of the type of theatrical experience you can expect. The name Le Navet Bete, when literally translated means 'stupid turnip' and the group bring the perfect amount of mirth to this treasured fable, with plenty of japing and affectionate sending up of the classic horror genre.
The play is from the same stable as those created by the revered Mischief Theatre Company and could actually be called 'Dracula Goes Wrong'. It's like the movie Scream, with a bit of Spamalot and Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em expertly molded together.
Performed by an exceptional quartet (Nick Bunt, Dan Bianchi, Matt Freeman and Al Dunn), who all portray a myriad of colourful characters, the story is conveyed partly as a series of memory monologues and partly through a deliberately nonsensical set of theatrical scenes.
Set beneath a crumbing proscenium arch, you'll see some sensational slapstick, frantic costume changes and airborne props, all strung together with clever dialogue and hilarious wordplay; one of the characters is called Doctor Seaward but pronounced as "C word" and Van Helsing's Dutch accent is used to maximum comedy effect when he utters the phase "It looks like a piece of sheet".
Eddolls' ingenious design ensures the visual comedy is spot on and John Nicholson's slick direction facilitates a lightning quick and flawless comedic exhibition.
Yes, there's a lot borrowed from Monty Python and often you know exactly what's about to happen, but the anticipation only makes each punchline all the more amusing.
Dracula: The Bloody Truth is side-splittingly funny and is, by far, the best new comedy I've seen this year.
Photo credit: Matt Austin