Since the original novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker in 1897, there have been countless versions and interpretations of this infamous character through various forms of media and pop culture – ranging from horror movies to children’s animated cartoons. The character is generally much better known than the original story itself.

Appropriately produced by Bitten By Productions, Dracula: Last Voyage of the Demeter is a one act play by local writer, and VCA Graduate, Sean Carney. Rather than deliver yet another presentation of a previously told tale, Carney has taken an unclear section from the original text and interpreted what may have happened.

Dracula on boat

The story takes place on-board the sailing vessel, the Demeter, and is entirely set in the cargo hold below deck. Being performed in the recently renovated presentation area at Voltaire creates the ideal performance space. Steps leading from an upper level to the audience area create realistic entrances for the characters. Clever use of sound effects combined with some naturally creaking floorboards create a rather immersive experience. The set, by Dan Ward and Ashley Tardy, is simple, but effective, with enough detail to create a realistic scene. Costumes by Charlotte Sweeney set the era.

The story is well written, with some clever and provocative lines that could spark further in-depth analysis, but the play moves along at a decent pace, and I’d need to revisit it in order to be able accurately quote anything. Unfortunately, quite a number of the opening lines were missed due to some very quiet dialogue almost whispered and slurred by one of the cast. This was made more difficult by the creaking floorboards and noise from shoes as characters paced the floor and made for a disjointed and somewhat frustrating opening to the play. However, this can easily be improved for subsequent performances.

The cast (Gregory Caine, Robin Darch, Matthew Elliott, Stephanie Daniel, Gabriel Bergmoser, Chris Grant and Celina Mack) all deliver strong performances and the play is well directed by Ashley Tardy, who has ensured the play maintains a high level of suspense. There are no superfluous lighter moments and the story effectively builds and reaches an unpredictable climax. The choice to write and present the play as one act ensures the tension builds without allowing the audience any opportunity to take a break – much like reading a book you simply can’t put down.

I won’t go into any details about each of the characters to avoid any spoilers, but the cast are well suited to their characters, delivering convincing performances.

Dracula two

However, it must be said, the real star of this play is Gregory Caine as Dracula. Channelling the evil of Hannibal Lecter, Caine delivers a conniving and manipulative Dracula, who is seemingly interested in the lives of the people who are keeping him captive. While there is no reason for the audience to develop any real empathy for the character, Caine’s portrayal of Dracula is rather hypnotic. On stage for nearly the entire play, Caine does not drop his menacing portrayal for even a moment.

Dracula one

Gregory Caine as Dracula

Dracula: Last Voyage of the Demeter will have you on the edge of your seat. Not for the faint-hearted who believe in happily ever after. You may want to sleep with the lights on …

Dracula: Last Voyage of the Demeter is now playing at Voltaire for a limited season.

For more information: https://www.bittenbyproductions.com/