The Thailand-UK production of "Dracula" is a rare treat
THERE’S NOTHING new about English-language plays being produced in Thailand – indeed, spoken drama was introduced to Thai dramatic art by no less a personage than King Rama VI.
But never before has the audience witnessed such a large-scale production as Ewing Entertainment Worldwide’s “Dracula: Blood Is Life”, now gearing up for the final weekend of its four-week run at the K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts.
This proscenium theatre seats more than 1,000 audience members and notwithstanding the immense efforts made to promote the English language in advance of the start of the AEC, the spoken language is probably why this production has not drawn the expected crowds. It’s proof once again that most local theatregoers still prefer musicals with 30 or more performers onstage – more bangs for our bucks perhaps – when a ticket costs a few thousand baht.
British director Joe Harmston’s focus on characterisation and character relationships, rather than blood is evident from the start and makes this two-hour play with one intermission roll along smoothly. In the end, it’s clear that the lines between good and evil is so thin that, as well as that between sanity and madness, we can slip in and out of it or between them anytime.
Don’t expect a groundbreaking adaptation, though: American playwright Steven Dietz’s version is very faithful to the original novel. The script has many short scenes and Harmston makes sure that all are dramatically united and that no transition wastes time or causes distraction or confusion.
That cohesion is also thanks to the practicality of Sean Cavanagh’s set design which not only fills the stage, horizontally and vertically, with its slanted lines but also, thanks to his keen collaboration with lighting designer Ben Cracknell, manages to create a Victorian atmosphere with a contemporary look.
The same can be said for Rachael Forbes’s costume design.
As the title character, Chulachak “Hugo” Chakrabongse silences all doubters who regard him more as rock star than actor. His performance is easily on par with the much more experienced British actors. That said though, the play is carried for the most part by British veterans Christopher Brand, Joe Dixon and Paul Ewing, as Dr Seward, Van Helsing and Renfield respectively thanks to both their characterisations and physical and vocal presence. With so strong a male cast, German actress Maximiliane Bauer as Mina Harker and her Thai counterpart Myra Molloy as Lucy Westenra, look and sound weak – the latter is also evidently too young for this role. Another Thai actor Vin Kridakorn isn’t quite convincing as Mina’s husband Jonathan.
Another bold choice is the decision not to use any microphones in this large modern playhouse. I was nine rows away from the stage on the stalls and enjoyed the highly skilled enunciation of the aforementioned actors but had a hard time hearing and understanding the actresses. M Theatre might have been a better choice for this production.
Also commendable is the sound design, present throughout the play, by Tada Mitrevej, which is soft enough not to compete with the actors’ voice but loud enough to enhance the story’s suspense.
MORE THAN BLOOD
- “Dracula: Blood Is Life” continues from tomorrow until Sunday at the K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts in Siam Square One. Shows are at 7.30 nightly and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
- It’s in English with Thai surtitles. Due to its content, the performance is recommended for audience members 12 years old and above.
- Tickets are Bt840 to Bt2,660. Check ThaiTicketMajor for discounts.
- Find out more at www.TheDraculaShow.com.