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Dracula: The Travesty

Stuart Howson with additional material from David Hopper
The Customs House in association with Northumberland Theatre Company
The Customs House, South Shields

David Hopper as Dracula (or Jonathan Harker)
Alfie Joey as Van Helsing and Sophia Catleugh as Mina
David Hopper. Alfie Joey and Sophia Catleugh
David Hopper
Alfie Joey

Since Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was published in 1897, there have been many adaptations on stage and screen. In fact, the first was immediately before the novel’s publication and was written and produced by Stoker himself. And of course there was the almost iconic Hammer film with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and goodness knows how many spin-offs which simply used the idea of Dracula or even just his name.

Stuart Howson’s play, however, sticks closely to the original story but as a travesty—a burlesque, a parody, an incongruous presentation—a type of theatre with a long history.

You see, this production is performed by three actors. David Hopper plays, amongst others, Dracula, Jonathan Harker and himself; Sophia Catleugh plays Mina, all three of Lucy Westonra’s suitors (although Lucy doesn’t make an appearance) and one of Dracula’s servants, Igor, while Alfie Joey plays Van Helsing—and Igor.

Mind you, the two Igors are pronounced differently: Ee-gor and Eye-gor. Could well be a cue for a song there!

And that reveals all, for this is a pantomime Dracula: lots of dry-ice flooding the stage (and the first couple of rows), slapstick, sight gags, pratfalls, bad jokes...

“This is the worst joke in the play” (Pregnant Pause) “So far!”

…and audience participation. The audience gets to provide sound effects, answer back (“This is not a pantomime!” is said at one point. Guess what the audience replied) and sing along (there’s even a community song sheet towards the end).

Oh yes, and at the performance I saw there were a number of those wonderful panto moments when one of the cast corpses (gets the giggles) and infects everyone else, including the audience.

Disrespectful to a classic? Of course. That’s what a travesty is. And it is hilarious. The audience literally howled with laughter. After all, we were supposed to be imitating wolves—and I think we did a pretty good job.

It’s a very funny piece of writing and the cast do a great job. David Hopper, who also directs, has been a panto favourite at the Customs House for some years now and has written and starred in many panto spin-offs for children, whilst Alfie Joey was a Britain’s Got Talent contestant and has many years of comedy under his belt. Sophia Catleugh, however, is a real find for the Customs House. Just out of drama school (she left LIPA in July) and in her first professional job, she more than held her own in this experienced comic company.

It takes a lot to make me really laugh out loud nowadays—aged and jaded, that’s me—but this show succeeded.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan