Bram Stoker’s classic gothic story has been re-told countless times, but there’s no harm in a couple more versions of Dracula this Fringe. Let Them Call it Mischief stay close to the original, whilst bring the timeless tale into the modern world by packing it with references to Dirty Dancing, Destiny’s Child and Twilight. They poke fun at the typical tropes of vampires – wait you’re saying they don’t glisten in the sunlight? And who actually knows how to pronounce the word, is it wampirie?
Count Dracula, the first Romanian immigrant, comes to England to break the spell cast on him. He has until his 200th birthday to find his one true love, and he must love her equally, she also has to be wheat intolerant and be able to teach him the leg before wicket rule. But who will save Count Dracula from immortality? Will he find his true love? Or will a cross, garlic or a stake to the heart defeat him?
Rob Cummings’ portrayal is reminiscent of Dracula from the animated film Hotel Transylvania as he shuffles across the stage. He is a sensitive hero in comparison to the other men, who are sexist and chauvinistic. Even Jonathan Harker (Anthony Pinnick) who pretends to be kept at Dracula’s castle under the watch of three decrepit nuns. Sarah Bradnum takes on the role of fiancé Mina, who brings light to the sexist undertones of the novel. She seeks emancipation, but she is a woman, she better go fetch the drinks instead. Alyssa Noble plays Lucy, the independent woman, who doesn’t need no man. Graham Elwell takes on all the leftover characters, Abraham Van Helsing, Renfield and a local Whitby man eating chips and playing jokes on tourists.
DRACULA is a well-written, fast-paced comedy written by Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey. With only five actors to take on all the characters and three suitcases to make up most of the set, which they use as running gag throughout. They don’t require a large cast or an intricate set, when they have such tight performers that bounce off one another. In every generation there is a chosen one: this could be the freshest version of DRACULA RACHAEL HICKMAN |
DRACULA ***** Steampoke theedinburghreporter.co.uk Spoofery Spookery Beyond The Pale – And Grave.
Performances: 6 – 29 August at 3.30pm
Pleasance Courtyard, Beyond.
Venue 33. 15.30. 60 mins. Suitable for children 12+. (But they might be suitable for the plot!)
Please note stage blood will be used – possibly yours…
Sticking their future professional career necks out Let Them Call It Mischief theatre company know the stakes are high with this schlockhorror hard-gore slapstick spoof on the Dracula opus.
More hammy than a canoe sized sausage roll crewed by gammon suited pigs rowing with black pudding oars, excess is a concept they left bleeding on the abattoir floor of their credibility. With us so far? We must hurry, darkness falls.
The show opens with Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. Clue there folks. Jonathan Harker opens his journal to fiancée Mina, no wallflower her, she wants emancipation and has a profound insight into the arcane rules of cricket – in particular lbw, but that is not important right now – (spoiler alert) but it will be! Before Jonathan is lured in to the Harpy embraces of Dracula’s handmaidens (best we move on as to what they get up to with those hands) he insists that his client writes his will. Dracula poo poos that silly notion. Wonder why, hmm?
There’s a running trope through out the show where character changeovers allow all sorts of mischievous gags to ameliorate these rude but necessary mechanicals. Quite how we get to a Romeo & Juliet balcony scene parody isn’t quite clear but it hardly matters. Van Helsing’s chainsaw cod ‘European’ accent has him taking the role (amongst others, not least the incomprehensible chip eating Whitby local idiot and cage rattling Renfield) as top man ‘Wampeerie’ exterminator. His extemporaneous rant riff about Wampeeries being damnable illegal immigrants has the audience bleeding from their eyes.
Will Lucy’s love for Dracula allow him to recover his mortal soul, will her shrewd eye for a devious legspin googly save the day? Who the hell cares! It has absolutely no bearing on the fact that Bram Stoker is spinning in his grave. Poor man – well he started it! They Hammer it home with fangtastic panache
– a show to die for.
The annual madness that is the enormously popular Fringe Festival has descended upon Edinburgh throughout August, and as ever, Theatre-News delights in taking their pick of the best – and the worst – of what’s on offer! Well, among the best of this year’s productions is a boisterous take on the old Bram Stoker classic DRACULA, which marks the Edinburgh Fringe debut for Let Them Call It Mischief, a five-piece outfit specialising in fusing much-loved classics with a modern twist.
Let Them Call It Mischief was founded in 2012 by Danny Wainwright, Stephanie Martin, Hilary Puxley, Flo Buckeridge and Tessa Gillett and has since produced four highly successful shows, with DRACULA being their fifth. Despite the relatively compact space the Pleasance Courtyard Beyond venue has to offer, the energetic thespians cleverly made use of the somewhat limiting space by incorporating a minimum of props to maximum effect in their re-telling. All actors are taking on the various characters we know from the story, and then some: Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray Harker, Lucy Westenra, Dr. John Seward, Arthur Holmwood, Quincey P. Morris, Dr. Van Helsing, Renfield, a locomotive operator, a coach driver, a serving girl at a Transylvanian Inn, the third bride of Dracula, a Whitby dock worker, a maid, passengers on a train…
An old trunk functions both as a seat in the train carriage and also as the seat of the coach which takes Jonathan Harker to Castle Dracula. We’re only at the beginning of our journey and already the jokes come thick and fast, for example when Harker complains about the steam from the train’s engine and the monotonous Transylvanian diet consisting mainly of cabbage with sausage served up in variations thereof. In the castle, the imposing (and I do mean imposing!) Count makes his entrance, much to the laughter of the entire audience. The famous scene in which Dracula’s three brides emerge and try to seduce young Harker is of course also played for laughs! Rather than smoulderingly begging “Come, Jonathan, come…” our three brides (make that two females and one male actor in drag) break into a disco dance routine to the sound of ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi’ and it’s hysterical!
Dracula’s arrival in Whitby (the first Romanian immigrant) and his subsequent entry to the Harker household is the perfect playground for endless jokes and gimmicks – here, it’s Lucy’s dilemma of picking the right husband (or picking any at all) which provides a platform for gags galore. Later on, the big twist is that the usually demure Mina begins to rebel-yell against here ‘patronising’ husband Jonathan and Dracula’s advances seem more then just welcome… for one, the Count seems to treat her as his equal. It’s 1897 and as far as Mina is concerned it’s about time women got their right to vote – something that the by now deceased Lucy has tried to tell her all along. It would be unfair to give the finale away (and what a twist!) nor would it be fair to spoil future shows by revealing too much here…
Let’s just say that DRACULA is a brilliant and inspired show which takes you on a side-splittingly funny ride you won’t forget in a hurry! All the cast are superb and are clearly having a ball, though I’m still wondering over Count Dracula’s peculiar walk which resembles more the tiny steps of a Japanese geisha…
The show runs at Edinburgh’s Pleasance Courtyard till Monday 29th August, if you can’t make it then follow Let Them Call It Mischief on their official website:
£7.50-11 depending on the performance, 2 for 1 tickets available 8 and 9 August
Reviewed by: Olivia Coxhead
Dracula's magic lies in Let Them Call It Mischief's astute take down of the traditional and expected, with intelligent comic writing from writers Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey
At the Pleasance Courtyard, in a small portacabin affectionately known as ‘Beside’ and at 3.30pm every day, the elusive spirit of the Fringe emerges and takes form, and this year it has a Transylvanian accent. Let Them Call it Mischief’s Dracula may not be the only adaptation of Bram Stoker’s story in Edinburgh this year but it’s already selling out fast, and it’s clear why.
In this irreverent adaptation of the classic Gothic story, Count Dracula is on the search for his (gluten free) true love, before he is condemned to stay a vampire forever. In period (and budget) costumes, and with wittily self-aware dialogue, the five cast members character-swap and quick-change their way through the whole novel’s worth of characters over the course of an hour. Expect funny accents, fake moustaches and squirty blood, but with a script and cast that effortlessly elevates this ham-horror satire from its poorer cousins.
Sarah Bradnum gets the enviable task of taking on Victorian sexism and winning, with her strong and convicted portrayal of Mina, a character that is normally played so meekly she gets on everyone’s nerves. Graham Elwell is a force of nature, in his role as ‘all the rest of the characters’, and keeps the energy of the piece rollicking along, whilst Rob Cummings does justice to a sympathetic and sensitive Dracula, with his pinpoint sense of comic timing and textbook accent.
It’s as if the theatre gods have conspired to create the perfect example of an Edinburgh show: a classical yet irreverent adaptation in a challenging venue, carried off by an accomplished and talented cast – it screams for transfer. This kind of success isn’t plucked from the air, but is of course the result of the hard working and annoyingly talented Let Them Call It Mischief crew. Their magic lies in their astute take down of the traditional and expected, with intelligent comic writing from writers Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey, who deserve extra points for getting the word contrafibularities juxtaposed with Destiny’s Child lyrics.
Dracula will be continuing its run at the Pleasance Courtyard until 29 August,with daily performances at 3.30pm (with the exception of 15 August, when there is no performance). You can buy tickets from the Edinburgh Fringe Box Office here.
Lucy / Dr Seward – Alyssa Noble
Count Dracula / Dr Seward – Rob Cummings
Mina – Sarah Bradnum
Jonathan Harker / Arthur – Anthony Pinnick
Abraham Van Helsing / Renfield – Graham Elwell
Written by Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey, based on Bram Stoker’s original story
We all know the Dracula story… or do we? Join the first Romanian immigrant as he strikes fear into the male establishment with some surprising consequences. Five actors take on lots of characters in this funny, fast-paced retelling of the classic Gothic tale.
Pleasance Beside is an unprepossessing blue box in Pleasance Courtyard – but there is magic within. Let Them Call It Mischief take on the challenge of the wide, shallow performing space and imbue it with energy and chutzpah to take us on a dizzying 60 minute ride through Transylvania to meet the eponymous Count.
Right from the start, the five-strong company set out their stall – playful, engaging, unafraid to set up a convention and break it, or indulge a running gag its life. At the beginning Jonathan Harker (the versatile Anthony Pinnick) is on the train and as it pulls into a stop, the stationmaster is waiting with a smoke machine to “accidentally” fill his carriage with “steam”. The show is packed with these delightful touches, with the actors unintentionally dropping each other in another fine mess.
Rob Cummings’ Dracula looms large, undercutting his dark presence with delicate footwork, his tiny geisha steps mimicking the gliding Count from so many B movies. Harker is keen to get out of Castle Dracula as soon as possible and return to London to his beloved Mina – and to deliver pressing paperwork – but he is detained by a delightful spoof harem of vampires – they even indulge him with a bit of Dirty Dancing. It is deliciously delivered.
Back home Mina (a sassy, strong Sarah Bradnam) awaits Jonathan’s return whilst her friend Lucy (a lovely dizzy turn from Alyssa Noble) fends off proposals of marriage from – well, anyone in the company who’s free – “How long will you be? – As long as it takes me to get changed”. The doubling and trebling is handled with great aplomb and a generous helping of nudge and wink.
The action stays pretty close to Bram Stoker’s original – the arrival of Van Helsing (a gleeful Graham Elwell who doubles as a suitably disturbed Renfield – and everyone else) signals the beginning of the end – he’s out for the Count. The stakes are high – obviously – and the stage blood goes everywhere.
Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey have concocted a well-aimed script which doffs a cap to Blackadder and Patrick Barlow’s 39 Steps – there’s a splash of Spike Milligan in there too. There’s enough layering to make sure the adults get their laughs without the kids feeling short-changed. Wainwright’s direction ensures the pace doesn’t drop – the set-pieces are well-executed and there’s a very nice complicity with the audience. If you’re after a good time in Edinburgh – get your teeth into this one.