Vlad the Impaler

With playwright Richard Crane, of National Theatre and Royal Court fame, being accompanied by director Faynia Williams (National Theatre Mongolia & Romania) and not forgetting backing from the Romanian Cultural Institute, this production certainly promised a lot and a lot did it deliver.

A highly professional and truly thought provoking take on one of history’s misunderstood “bad boys”, this play is well worth going to see and I challenge anyone who would beg to differ.

Vlad the Impaler: historic leader, subject of popular literature, Hollywood villain, written about, sung about, painted and drawn; you would think there is not much more to say about this infamous noble; yet, here we were presented with an adaptation of a fascinating piece of contemporary writing (credit to Marin Sorescu), watching enthralled, as it was played out across the humble stage of the Rialto Theatre.

The acting was absolutely faultless. The two performers supporting Vlad drifted between multiple roles with such finesse that they could have drafted in another five actors in support and we wouldn’t have noticed the difference. It was astonishing how two people managed to portray such wonderfully individual characters without accidently blurring the lines in between.

And then, there was Vlad the Impaler. If the rest of the play hadn’t been so brilliant I would have awarded five stars just to him. Jack Klaff took on this character with apparent ease, strutting up and down the theatre, reeling off tales of slaughter and violence with his oddly charming and charismatic approach. His performance was absolutely captivating and his singing voice was impeccable.

The set was simplistic, as were the costumes but this didn’t detract from the performance for a moment. A play such as this doesn’t require special effects or dramatic costume changes, the actors saw to this with their almost schizophrenic portrayal of multiple characters and the lightning design was perfect for the environment it was in.

A couple of jokes were cracked along the way to break up the more gruesome retellings of beggars burning to death, and the story’s narrators, who happened to be two of Vlad’s “impalees”, served to make light of this quite grisly part of European history.

Highlights most certainly included the singing elements, again praise where it is due to Jack Klaff, an unmistakable talent but also to Cary Crankson and Anna-Maria Nabirye who held their own harmonising beautifully as they sang tales of torture and undoing.

Out of context, the ending could have been slightly over dramatic but by the time it arrived, we had invested so much into the character of Vlad and his impending downfall that it would have been anticlimactic in any other way.

A highly professional and truly thought provoking take on one of history’s misunderstood “bad boys”, this play is well worth going to see and I challenge anyone who would beg to differ. 

Reviews by Bethan Troakes

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The Blurb

‘I am cruel and it hurts; you only punish those you love.’ Founding Father of Romania or Monster who inspired the Dracula legend? Award-winning Brighton Theatre tells a lunchtime tale of horror and dark comedy that resonates down the centuries.