The West Australian Ballet had audiences in throes of drama and intrigue with its production of Dracula during its sold-out 2018 season. Now, as we climb out of Covid-19 restrictions, the company is putting the Count and his seduced subjects back on stage to excite audiences once more.
“Even though we still have audience number restrictions,” said artistic director Aurelien Scannella to Community Newspapers this week, “we are going ahead with it. We’re able to receive some grants from Lotterywest for the losses because at the moment we can only have 400 people in the audience, which is not enough to break even … but the dancers have to go back on stage.”
And on stage the dancers let their passions run wild. Within the first few minutes of ‘Dracula’, the audience witnesses intense romance, sudden separation, tragic suicide, and war.
Performed to a specially created libretto, this fresh adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel follows a lonely vampire determined to reunite with his lost love, Mina, meanwhile draining the life of anyone who gets in his way to his true object of desire.
Adding a touch of classical to this neoclassical production is the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, lead by Judith Yan.
Yan had the pleasure of being able to refer to the soundtrack of the 1992 film version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the one with Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves in it), but to hear WASO’s emphatic delivery of familiar strains sees the music surpass even the best Dolby-fited cinematic experience.
Another appealing aspect about this production is that artistic director Scannella took it upon himself to not only oversee the entire production’s look and feel but to fill one of the lead roles – that of the older Dracula.
In this guise, Scannella brings a sense of gravitas akin to Gary Oldman’s character on celluloid – but with a touch of lightness (aesthetically at least) which brings to mind Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire.
Word has it Scannella has not danced in front of a major audience for at least a decade. Suffice to say, as artistic director he has taken the West Australian Ballet to great heights with recent productions, and Dracula proves to be the pinnacle of his prowess. He also possesses the gift of the gab in delivering swift ballet moves, despite having spent a decade off-stage.
The set design and costumes are also major attractions of this production, with UK set and costume designers Phil Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith having creating immense structures that ooze classic storybook, and gorgeous costumes that utter fairytale, respectively. Even cobwebs in this production aren’t mere fluff, instead giant iron-like constructions that loom over the set.
There are modern touches to the show, too, ones that defy gender categorisation, for example.
In one scene, dancer Mathew Lehmann’s ‘Young Dracula’ and Oscar Valdes’ ‘Frederick’ dish out a tango that is as dashing as any same-sex routine delivered on So You Think You Can Dance. In another, more blatant scene, three femme fatales tease and torment Frederick in a lust scene that pop star Madonna would be proud of.
With its up-to-the-minute nods, very familiar story line, spectacular mis-en-scene, and pointe work that is, well, on-point, this production of a worldwide classic is an absolute must-see. Even if it means for a second time.
‘Dracula’ presented by the West Australian Ballet in conjunction with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra is on from September 11 to 26, 2020 at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. Tickets are available through www. tickets.waballet.com.au.