Somebody should tell the cast of Dracula that when performing in a venue with a capacity of 80 you don't need to project and exaggerate your performance as if you are in a venue with a capacity for 280 (with two notable exceptions in the cast that is but I'll come onto that).
Dracula is a big story to adapt into a play and putting it on, on a little stage presents problems particularly if, as I've already mentioned, the cast are performing as if in a space two or three times bigger.
It is also easy to caricature and here lies another problem. Putting on a similar accent to the Count from Sesame Street and walking slowly around the stage in an overly purposeful manner does not a scary Dracula make, sorry Louis J Parker.
Then there was Laura Blackmore as Mina and Daisy Burns as Lucy. Bearing in mind the play is based on Bram Stoker's Victorian novel and the period has been preserved in this production, if you take the sexual awakening of these two Victorian women too far then you lose the element of innocence that explains the mens overt fear for their safety.
Blackmore's and Burn's stagey, vampish precociousness just made me long for Dracula to sink his teeth in. There was certainly no feeling of 'poor little Lucy' and neither was I convinced that Matthew Grace's turn as solicitor Jonathan Harker gave the character the charisma to turn the head of wealthy heiress Mina.
But as hinted earlier, there were some redeeming performances. Sophie Holland as maid Florrie put in a fine understated performance and Kieran Hennigan as the mental patient Renfield fighting the bewitchment of the Count was convincingly deranged.
I also thought using red petals during the bite sequences was an effective and symbolic alternative to fake blood.
But ultimately what should be a chilling and thrilling story felt like a stodgy, over-acted stage-school production which at times bordered on the farcical. I couldn't help thinking that the decision to put on this play had something to do with capturing the appetite for all things vampire in the wake of the success of Twilight and True Blood however with a lot more subtlety in production and performances it might just have worked.
I'm with Glen in that I give it one star which is a shame.
A couple of reviews so far on www.upthewestend.com which gives it an average rating of two out of five
Not sure I want there to be a connection with this even if I could find one.