Theatre Review: DRACULA: THE UNTOLD STORY – The Lowry, Salford

Combining live-action with graphic artwork, DRACULA: THE UNTOLD STORY shifts between reality and fantasy, adding a new level of power and horror to this classic story.

5 out of 5 stars

Dracula has been revisited many times over the years on film, radio, graphic novel, and television; even THE SIMPSONS have had a stab at it, but this new interpretation from Imitating The Dog theatre company sets the bar higher than before.

Using a combination of live-action and real-time generated graphic artwork, DRACULA: THE UNTOLD STORY tells the story of Mina Harker, her life after Dracula and her perspective on her place in the world.

Taking place in 1965 and in a police station, we see Mina Harper be interviewed by WPC Williams (Adela Rajnović) and DS Donaldson (Matt Prendergast) following a gruesome discovery in Soho. They are to be the witnesses to Mina’s story as we are taken on a journey deeper into the world of shadow versus reality, good versus evil – the world of Dracula.

The play opens in an interrogation room on New Year’s Eve. A sterile world cut off from the fireworks outside is very much alive with menace, tension and a dream-like shifting perspective of fact versus fiction, a world where the reality is not real.

Mina should be dead by now. After all, she killed Dracula in 1895, so how can she be in a police station in 1965 looking not one day older when 70 years have passed? Slowly the officers tease Mina’s tale out of her, her path of reality, her shadow existence in the dark corners of history.

Whilst initially unbelieving, the police officers gradually realise there may be more to this tale than at first glance, which both disturbs and intrigues.

Rajnovic and Predergast in multiple roles are never less than on the mark, whether they be smoking outside in the falling rain or portraying various characters. This is where the play really shines, and all three actors in the cast are to be commended for their seamless movements from stage to camera work.

The use of the actors as characters, both on stage and realised in graphic novel animation, is both disorientating and destabilising, adding to the sense of menace. The unfolding supernatural narrative on the stage is augmented in such a way as to cause the audience to be fully enthralled with the almost unbelievable tale.

The visual effects are too many to mention, but along with the colour palette of a graphic novel, the play shifts between reality and fantasy via historical touches that adds a level of power and horror.

Alongside this, Mina’s role is a woman who has travelled Europe being her own version of a vengeful god. Played with fierce passion, Riana Duce gives a powerhouse of a performance that is mesmerising as a central character.

Under the artistic directorship of Pete Brooks, Andrew Quick and Simon Wainwright, and melting together a potent mix of multimedia, this version of the Dracula story is something very special, very new and above all very memorable.

DRACULA: THE UNTOLD STORY runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 13 November 2021.