Tuesday, July 5

Fresh Blood – Arrival Festival 2020

Fresh Blood from Popbox is a reinterpretation of Bram Stoker’s classic gothic novel, Dracula, set in the modern world of social media, online influencers and live streamed workouts and video games. Created and performed by Josh Cannon, Tom Morris and Georgie Sykes, this surreal piece of theatre allows you to jump between three channels, each one focussing on one of the cast, creating a unique jigsaw of this much loved vampiric story.

All three channels are very different, with Georgie’s consisting of dramatic readings of sections of the original novel, Josh’s focussing on the characters’ social media presence and Tom’s being an original peek into everyday life. The three cast members play various roles across the three channels bringing to life both modern versions of the original characters and new creations.

Artwork by Isla Pearce

Sykes’ reading of the novel is very good, set in a brightly lit room ironically lit with candles in a sardonic attempt to force a gothic atmosphere. Her conspiratorial tone used in asides to the audience create a sense of familiarity and various sections are quite dramatic through variances in tone and body language. There are also some funny moments and which are performed well. 

Cannon’s look at social media is excellent. The travel vlog of Jonathan Harker (Tom Morris) is brilliantly performed, jumping from hilarious to terrifying at breakneck speed. The complicated life of Lucy (Georgie Sykes) as shown on Instagram, is very clever. A wry look at the world of social media influencers, through various written asides from Cannon, we are asked to consider everything from the silliness of posting pictures of yourself while critically ill to advertising your sponsors while in fear for your life. The live stream of the Demeter game is a stroke of genius which really brings this part of the novel into the modern world.

Morris’ home life is very disorientating and the most disturbing of the three performances. Bizarre camera angles and blurred, illegible screens create a sense of unease throughout.

This is a unique show and an affectionate reimagining of a classic novel. Relying heavily on the original work, some familiarity with the book is probably helpful to fully appreciate all of the references but overall this is an enjoyable piece. The social media elements are particularly strong and may be worth further development. Dracula is a legendary vampire and this is a charming and respectful tribute.

Fresh Blood is being streamed on as part of the Arrival Festival https://arrivalfestival.com/2020/07/09/popbox/  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 4th September 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★