Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Honourable Mention: The Wings of Dracula

Lucas Alifano as Seward

This is a “zoom play”, directed by Starina Johnson and the script of which was written by a friend, David MacDowell Blue. This friendship is one of the reasons for giving this an Honourable Mention (rather than reviewing the play), the other being that I have watched a few zoom plays over lockdown and they all suffer to a greater or lesser degree for not being more traditionally staged. In this case, the Fierce Backbone company really did make the best of the technology. All the characters received (sometimes) animated e-backdrops relevant to where they were in story – which at best has been done piecemeal and, often, remaining static in other productions I have watched – and there was very little in the way of technical issue, bar some distortion on Dracula’s voice at the finale. However, the inability to interact physically leaves a mark no matter how clever the production is.

into Lucy's tomb

This is a retelling of Dracula, which starts after the wreck of the Demeter and is set in entirety in Whitby (bar one minor ‘on train’ moment and thus moving Hillingham, Carfax and Seward’s Sanitorium to the town). There are some really interesting things done with the characters. Jack Seward (Lucas Alifano), Quincy Morris (Holger Moncada Jr.) and Arthur Holmwood (Peter Pasco) are all present but their relationship has developed offering a friction with Seward that was fascinating and perhaps, dare I say it, a tad more realistic than the novel. There is a moment of queering that was also noteworthy and the Morris/Holmwood relationship was developed beyond the very 2-dimensional novel relationship, with those characters repositioned so they are the ones looking into the shipwreck. Lucy (Holly Hinton) is still engaged to Holmwood but is orphaned and (pre vampire encounter) sicklier than in the book.

Renee DeBevoise as Renfield

There were some brave changes. Seward’s Sanatorium is for female patients meaning that Renfield (Renee DeBevoise) is gender swapped but even more interesting was the way the character was used. Troubled, she is the psychic barometer of the novel but more fully so, with a definitive psychic connection to the vampire that she endeavours to fight. The character and performance was a highlight of the play, played in a much more understated way than some of the famous (male) performances and the stronger for it. Another brave move was to remove Van Helsing from the character roster altogether. Dracula (Skylar Silverlake) was also drawn in a less traditional way, as the playwright says “In the end, I decided my Count has long since stopped thinking of himself as human. He is Death. An angel of death for all intents and purposes.

blood at Lucy's mouth

Probably the most interesting aspect was the inclusion of a vampiric duality where the vampire’s spirit (I assume) corporeally moves at night, whilst their body remains in the grave (the fact that the Count moves his grave across to England offers a suggestion that there is some limitation in how far they might roam). This felt like an addressing of the question that emerged from the folkloric cases regarding just how the body exits the grave, and was a welcome detail.

Skylar Silverlake as Dracula

The play is available to see online. The recording has a 10-minute intermission, which has some posted Dracula “facts”, I assume added by the company, and the least said about those probably the better, but the play itself is well-performed (especially given the limitations) and certainly very well composed. To see it you must be a Patron of Fierce Backbone. The process of becoming one costs $6 (US) to join. Unless you wish to continue to patronise the company you do not need to continue payment after the first month, but you do need to cancel payment after viewing the show. you can also buy the script in book form below.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK


EpimeTheAus said...

Made me think of video game cutscenes from the early 90's, soemthing like Wing Commander.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I can see that