Submitted by Ian Nott on Monday, 31st Jan 2011
Date of Show:Friday, 28th January 2011 (All day)
Venue:Chapel Off Chapel
A new take on the Dracula story graces the stage this week as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival.
Dark Summer promises a nightmare of fantasy, illusion, sex and heat and to a certain degree it achieves this. It is a grand feat these days for OK Productions to produce a piece of theatre of this genre as audiences are so accustomed to the blood sucking, night stalking antics of vampires and all things ghoulish in the recent run of sleek Twilight movies and other television Dracula spin-offs. Credit goes to the performers in this production for their earnest attempt at creating for the theatre a mood of skulduggery and blood sucking passion.
Writer, Matthew O’Sullivan, emphasized that his new play is less of an adaptation and more of a tribute to the ‘Dracula’ story. He has written the story with a twist; firstly, it is set in Melbourne in the present day and secondly, three of its characters are gay.
The legend of ‘Dracula’ was popularised by Bram Stoker novel in 1897. Stoker’s story depicts an English solicitor, Johnathan Harker, who travels to Count Dracula’s remote castle in Transylvania to provide legal support to the Count for a real estate transaction. The famous story begins to unfold when Harker becomes a prisoner in the castle and discovers disturbing facts about Dracula’s nocturnal activities.
Fast forward to 2011 and to O’Sullivan’s play where Melbourne lawyer Johnathan Harker (James Deeth) in order to clinch a property deal for the Dracula-esque, heavy machinery manufacturer, Vladimir Vilcu (Matthew O’Sullivan), must leave for Mr Vilcu’s castle in southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania, leaving his circumspect partner David West (Ashley McKenzie) and his excitable sister Lucy Harker (Sarah Ogden) back in heat of a Melbourne summer to fend for themselves.
This they end up doing as the very dark and wicked Mr Vilcu sweeps into their lives in Harker’s absence, disturbing the peace and inflicting horror on Lucy and mental health patient Bill Renfield (Paul Bugeja) who resides next door under the care of conscientious psychiatrist Peter van Helsing (Alec Gilbert). Bugeja gave a very convincing performance as a harmless delusional man.
O’Sullivan’s Mr Vilcu was a suitably ominous character who put to good use his commanding and controlled voice skills. O’Sullivan has effective presence on stage and there were shades Vincent Price in his performance. He maintained his commitment to the horror genre in his creation of Mr Vilcu.
A highlight of the production was its magic effects courtesy of Ross Skiffington, a very highly regarded actor, illusionist and magic consultant whose CV is mightily impressive. He brought to the stage the appropriate tricks of the eye by making performers levitate and disappear. The audience very much enjoyed this aspect of the play.
This new Australian mystery Dark Summer is an interesting inclusion for this year’s Midsumma Festival.