Performing in the relatively unheard-of historical venue that is The London Library, the setting is definitely the star of this production. Based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, The London Library allegedly being his primary source of information when researching for said book, Kate Kerrow’s adaptation mixes audio and visual effects with the multi-roling of two actors. Whilst the Reading Room of the impressive library is the perfect setting for this tale, the muddying of past and present throughout is not clear enough to be established as a deliberate choice.
There are three tales being told here: a husband and wife coping with the loss of a sister whilst the husband’s behavior has changed dramatically after returning from a trip to Romania, a mentally unstable patient being treated for his illness, and the treatment methods of Professor Van Helsing. Bart Lambert and Sophie Greenham play all these characters, multi-roling throughout. Despite this being at times an effective and impressive storytelling technique, it unfortunately often falls short as the changing of characters hinders the pace of what could be a very creepy evening. Lambert and Greenham are both talented as performers, working hard to present these larger than life characters, but Helen Tennison’s direction struggles to up the ante enough to truly hit home.
Eva Auster and Ashley Bale’s innovative use of space elevates the story through projections which are not only static on the walls of the room but are also fully portable, Greenham (playing Mina/Dr Seward) at one point projecting the vision of Mina’s sister Lucy onto her dress, making for a visually beautiful moment. Ryan Dawson’s stage design (massively aided by the beautiful surroundings) evokes the gothic style and casts us back to the past. A large gilded frame sits above the action, with white dripping candles on either side, the room dotted with details such as a chaise longue and an old-fashioned tape recorder.
I would recommend touring the library itself to see the books from which Stoker got his inspiration, as The London Library is a book-lover’s dream. You can see why the decision was made to have this site-specific performance take place, it’s beautiful and steeped in history. But, while the intention is well and truly there, Dracula fails to create enough atmosphere and sadly falls short of its aim.
Dracula is playing until 3 March. For more information and tickets, visit The London Library website.