Brother Wolf presents this creative adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest. The title is suitably euphemistic as it is revealed that Mr Renfield is being held against his will as Dracula continually glosses over this with a grandiose/ mocking hospitality. Dracula delves into the past, mapping out the scene to an eventual conclusion in which Renfield is forced to choose between two diabolical options.
In the intimate studio space, the stage is minimal with a table, two chairs and a few props. One of which is a rotting pig’s head on a platter, a constant reminder of the grim, uneasy undercurrent. An eerie environment is instantly established as Dracula walks in with an open music box. There is a chilling atmosphere as you envision them surrounded by the gloomy walls and maze of a castle.
Both actors gave vocally flawless and emotively rich performances. James Hyland’s Dracula is perfectly extravagant with a veneer that masks his emptiness but enough emotion to hint at his former living self. His calculating nature is disguised by a dangerously charming front. Hyland’s movements are smooth and deliberate. He is not the conventional Dracula as there is a business/showman aspect to his performance that is particularly unsettling as it is incongruous to his secluded lifestyle. His intensity and ferocity is terrifying, even in silence it is concentrated in his sharp, devious eyes.
Ashton Spear’s Renfield is morally robust and stubborn. Shaking and disturbed throughout as Dracula gaslights him, Renfield is tortured as he doubts or defends himself. The two orchestrate this claustrophobic power dynamic excellently. Renfield’s transformation was gripping and intense and felt strangely intrusive to watch. It was horrific but mesmerising. Spear’s movements and utterances were instinctive and animalistic. There could have been more variation is Renfield’s character as he was either shaking or scared or shouting and whilst this does elicit pity, the ending would have been more shocking if we had laughed as well as cried with him.
Hyland’s adaptation feels like a warning to the motivations and secret agendas of others. A huge theme throughout is also the delusion of conflating a person with a place and holding them responsible for what their ancestors have done. This play is politically relevant with fascinating psychological aspects and is a brilliantly clever, albeit disturbing take on a classic.
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 8th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★