Dracula: Mina's Reckoning review

A groundbreaking and distinctively Scottish retelling of Bram Stoker's classic novel

Dracula: Mina's Reckoning
Liz Kettle and Ailsa Davidson in Dracula: Mina's Reckoning
(Image credit: Mihaela Bodlovic/National Theatre of Scotland)

It's nearly 40 years since Liz Lochhead produced her landmark stage adaptation of "Dracula", said Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman. So it's "more than time" for another "groundbreaking", modern and distinctively Scottish response to Bram Stoker's novel from a brilliant female writer. Morna Pearson's "Dracula: Mina's Reckoning" – which had a run at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen, and is now touring – moves the action from Whitby to Aberdeenshire, an area Stoker knew well. The play is "shot through with the profound questioning of gender identity" – it employs a cast of female and non-binary actors – and focuses on the devoted friendship between Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray, and their "rebellion against the looming constraints of respectable Victorian marriage". It all makes for a "magnificent" drama. 

Director Sally Cookson's intense and fast-paced staging of this "impressive" horror thriller is "frankly incredible", said David Pollock in The Stage. "The cast moves urgently, sometimes frantically" around designer Kenneth MacLeod's set, with its industrial gangways, ladders and ramps, and two imposing peaks of rock. Benji Bower's "stark, surging score" helps conjure an eerie filmic atmosphere. And the "outstanding" lighting and video design brilliantly transport us from Victorian asylum and creepy vampire lair to the craggy silhouette of Slains Castle, while a psychedelic projection conveys "a sense of mental and spiritual disorientation". 

There are points where the play loses "narrative energy", said Mark Fisher in The Guardian. But there's no denying the excellence of the staging or of the performances. Liz Kettle is particularly good as Dracula: this is a monster with sinister power and bleak wit. Danielle Jam also excels, bringing a "convincing intellectual and spiritual restlessness" to the part of Mina, said Mark Brown in The Daily Telegraph. It is a gripping production, and it climaxes with "an extraordinary, feminist coup de théâtre. To divulge it, however, would be a crime deserving of a vampiric visitation."

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Touring until 28 October; nationaltheatrescotland.com. Rating ****

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