Sink your teeth into this immersive performance of Dracula from Brief Hiatus, which takes audiences on a tour of Preston Manor through dimly lit corridors and opulent dining halls, bringing to life the legends of Dracula, Van Helsing and the gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s famous tale.
get yourself down to Preston Manor and have a bloody good time
This adaptation, by David Shopland and Callum Hughes, of the gothic classic stays close to the original text, but rather than being in a traditional theatre, the setting is Preston Park Manor in Brighton. Audiences are invited into the main hallway of this historic stately home, welcomed to the evening and then split up and taken through the journey of Stoker’s bestseller. The story leads us around the manor, transporting us to settings such as Renfield’s sanatorium, Mina’s private bedroom, dusky inns in Transylvania, cabins on Russian ships and much, much more. It all makes for a very enjoyable retelling of this classic tale and the Manor is used to excellent effect.
As the hunt for the famous Count begins, it becomes clear that behind the scenes, not only are cast members dashing through corridors to prepare the next act, but also that audience members are treated to different parts of the play dependent on which group they are in – this was an excellent way to encourage repeat visits as it did make me want to see the parts that I had missed.
The cast look to be having a fantastic time, ranging from Rose Shaw’s simpering sexuality as Lucy Seward, to the Dracula’s nemesis, monster hunter Professor Van Helsing, played with compelling skill by Seth Morgan. None of the cast disappoint, with Ben Baeza (Harker) Edd Berridge (Dr Seward), and Rosanna Bini (Mina) all absorbing. In addition, there are several recurring minor characters who are equally enthralling, with Faye Lord worthy of a mention in despatches for her portrayal as a sanatorium nurse.
In terms of ‘scare-factor’, this is a production that isn’t going to leave you jumping at the slightest twitch. Instead, it aims to be full of atmosphere and to wrap the audience up in its tale, with additional comic moments provided by Conor Baum’s brash Texan Quincey Morris, who was clearly an audience favourite.
There’s certainly more that could be done here, particularly with the immersive setting, which offered more potential for innovation than what was used. In addition, the finale wasn’t up to the standard of the rest of the play and seemed a tad incongruent with what had happened before it.
Nevertheless, this was an excellent version of Dracula in a fantastically gothic setting. Director Conor Baum has worked some dark magic and I could well see Dracula vanishing, only to reappear in the darkness at the same time next year. In the meantime, get yourself down to Preston Manor and have a bloody good time.