This review does contain Spoilers for Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning.
Set in the landscape of 1890’s Aberdeenshire, Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel composed entirely of a female and non-binary cast. The play is told from the perspective of Mina, who recounts the tale of Dracula to a group of inpatients at an Aberdeen asylum.
Setting the play in Scotland could be considered an ode to the country that inspired Dracula and the unheard voices behind the creation of the novel such as Emily Gerard, a Scottish writer whose work is directly referenced in the play.
There are also two Doric speaking characters, Mr Swails and Renfield, as well as other lighter speakers of the dialect, which fully immerses you into 1800’s Aberdeen.
The set was made of metal scaffolding, functioning not only as the asylum, but also a cliff face, Lucy’s house and Dracula’s castle. There was also a jagged backdrop which, with the use of lighting tricks, added to the appearance of the cliff face, and the castle.
Without changing the set design, the audience are able to understand and believe the set has changed because of the actors’ use of it, and the way they react to each ‘different’ setting. For example, without there being a physical door on the set, we can believe that Mina is banging on a door, purely through Danielle Jam’s acting, and clever sound design.
The backdrop of the asylum transports us back to the gothic 19th century, reminding us of a time when women could not be educated and were seen simply as child bearers for rich and powerful men.
Pearson uses the role of women as a prompt for comedy, making the audience laugh at the character of Dr. Seward who believes women can’t have children if they read books and at Mina who finds the concept of marriage restraining and makes jokes at Seward’s expense.
The dialogue is quick and witty. All the characters bounce off of each other, creating dynamic relationships between themselves. Offering captioned performances, it is accessible for people with hearing difficulties (or anyone who doesn’t understand the Doric Dialect!).
The focus on female characters within the play could be an attempt from Pearson to bring to light the stories of women at the time of Dracula’s writing. Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning gives a voice to women, positioning them as protagonists and lead roles, instead of subjugating them. It is in many ways a feminist adaptation.
Although listed as a horror, the play served more as a comedy, with the occasional jump scare when Dracula appears. Any touches of the horror genre can be attributed to the sound department, with haunting cries of babies and loud winds warning us of Dracula’s danger. Sound is also successfully used to build tension, suspense, and excitement throughout the play.
Liz Kettle as Dracula gave a truly captivating performance. When addressing Mina in such a calm tone the audience could understand why she would want to join the undead and follow Dracula. She presents Dracula as trustworthy and full of promises, but in the split of a second she can switch back to being the evil vampire whose only concern is gaining power.
Danielle Jam captures the excitement of a schoolgirl when playing Mina, who cares more for education and friends than for marriage. Danielle showcases her acting ability through the wide range of emotions Mina experiences in the play, particularly in the scene where she loses her best friend Lucy (Ailsa Davidson), and the audience can feel and connect with her grief.
Natalie Arle-Toyne was also delightfully funny in her role as Van Helsing, who offered comedy in scenes with a much darker tone.
While it does fall short of being a horror, this adaptation of Dracula is still one worth seeing purely for the intelligent use of light and sound, as well as the compelling performances of all actors involved. It is highly captivating, and a brilliant watch for people who do not attend the theatre often. There is also quite the plot twist at the end of the play, as it finishes quite differently than we have seen in the various other adaptations of Dracula over the years.
Featured Image Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic