‘Dracula’ is a comic thriller starring Shirley Holmes and Jennie Watson. Based very roughly on Brams Stoker’s 1898 novel, this play was written by Kent R. Brown, an American playwright, director, and university professor who is the recipient of a Drama-Logue award, and a McLaren Comedy Playwriting Festival award. In 1996 he co-founded the Mt. Sequoya New Play Retreat where he helped develop fifty new works written by playwrights from across the country. Brown died in 2020, at age 79.

This is the sequel to Garrick’s most successful ‘Hound of the Baskervilles.’ The Garrick Theatre Group presents this tongue-in-cheek, dry humour play at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford. It is a 100-minutes of hilarity. Presented by a young cast – mostly under 18 yrs. – the production can be seen at 7.30 pm from the 9th to the 23rd of July. The actual performance dates are 9, 10 (2.00 pm matinée only), 14, 15, 16 (two shows), 17 (matinée only), 21, 22 and 23rd July. This show has several frightening scenes, but anyone over about 10 years will manage without nightmares.

Bookings: www.TAZtix.com.au/garricktheatre or phone TAZ Tix 9255-3336

Entering the auditorium was a nerve-racking experience. The path leading to the theatre’s entrance passed a graveyard with a dozen graves. Inside every square inch of the walls and ceiling had cobwebs, spiders, old photos, and strange messages. The best entrance décor I have seen in years – possibly ever, well done Gail Lusted.

The Scene:          1890. Sherlock Holmes’ residence in Baker Street London. Dracula’s Castle in the Carpathian Mountains. The docks at Whitby in Yorkshire.

The set:                Designer Ellien van Heerwaarden has employed some ingenious tricks to give faster scene changes and created a genuine creepy atmosphere. The pictures on the wall rotated to show a different painting. One of the cellar doors could open normally with two hinges on the side, then in a different scene it rotated on a central pivot allowing people to pass through in both directions. A door had a bookcase when rotated.

Set Builders: The construction manager was Adam ‘AJ’ Giltrow, with James Nailen-Smith as supervisor and advisor. Ellien, Adam, James, Ian Lusted, and Shaun Neal all ganged together to produce some very clever effects. Thanks to Meraki for the timber donation. The attention to detail was exceptional. Why paint a brick wall when you can put hours more work into fitting polystyrene bricks? Answer – it looked like a real dungeon! There were beams protruding from the walls. A most impressive set.

Properties:          The two props Goddesses were Grace Annear and Ellien van Heerwaarden. They had to find or produce strings of garlic, a dozen crucifixes, a large teak coffin with several matt black coffins to be unloaded from a ship. Scene cards announcing location or what happening next – presented by Mia Fellows

Lighting Design:                Clever use of colour and lighting levels by Bailey Fellows and Matthew Roberts

Lighting operator:            A complicated lighting cue sheet but Harry Compton coped admirably.

Sound designer and operator: Bailey Fellows

Stage manager:                Roxanne Moore and her Assistant stage manager, Ellien van Heerwaarden were extremely busy with a large cast most of whom were carrying anti-Dracula protection, plates of food or dead bodies.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are away on an investigation, so their nieces Jennie Watson (Olivia Fellows) and Shirley Holmes (Samantha ‘Sami’ Compton) are staying in their Baker Street flat. The kindly housekeeper, Mrs. Dobrinski (Fiona Forster) answers the door and welcomes in the famous psychologist, Arabella van Helsing (Codey Finley). The scientist has come, searching for help with her investigation into the most dreaded Vampire, Dracula (James Nailen). She explains that Dracula can take on many guises. Sometimes he is a young man (Kody Fellows) and then even a beautiful woman (Phoebe Mills). However, Sabrina has pneumonia so explains to the detectives that her daughter Sabrina van Helsing (Dakota Horrigan) will be going with them instead. When the group arrive in Transylvania, along with nervous Wilmington Murray ‘Mina’ (Ash Coshan) and their bold protector, Jonathon Harker (Kailem Mollard) they find the beautiful Lucy (Amy Lock) petrified and at breaking point. Dr Seward (Rob McConnell) is called in to help poor Lucy. The blood flows in scarlet ribbons from the victims’ throats. Like a savage dog, Dracula’s servant Renfield (Sophie David) is ready to murder at command.

Dracula’s harem of Draculette brides had the names of the deadly sins. They are Sloth (Brianna Thompson), Wrath (Paris Romano Jenner), Lust (Patryk Myśliński Smith), Pride (Sophia Lawson-Lawrence), Greed (Karla Jones), Envy (Ellien van Heerwaarden) and his main Bride, Gluttony (Amanda Bird). These youngsters knew exactly the characteristics they had to project and they certainly did it. One girl snarled like a wild animal as she eyed the audience, whilst another looked seductive as she checked out potential victims. The strong ensemble Erin Horrigan, Peyton Lawrence, Scarlett Lawrence, Mia Fellows, the incontinent Ben Anderson, Stephen Walsh, and Kristina Leake may have had only a few words of dialogue, but they all acted with assurance, good projection and created a fun yet frightening atmosphere.

The well-planned scene changes were conducted by the ensemble silently and speedily.

Wardrobe mistress, Sally Forbes had the brides in white blouses, basques, corsets, and kinky harnesses. The detectives had the correct tweed deerstalker and Inverness cape. The remaining performers were dressed for the late 19th century period. Good attention to detail.

Director Rodney Stickells-Palmer and Gail Lusted can be proud of the results of their arduous work required with the young actors, who repaid them with style. With such a large cast, on such a small stage, ensemble director Natalia Smith did a wonderful job having quick exits and entrances. Some entrances only seconds later from the opposite side of the stage. The cast was word-perfect with good voice projection. The tension and intimacy were increased by the directors using the auditorium aisle.

A musical accompaniment of original music by Kieran Ridgway, was arranged by the keyboard player, Lianne van Heerwaarden. Lianne acted as trio leader, with the other two musicians being Kiara Burke on cello and heavenly chimes, and Jeremy Moore on electric guitar with added ‘noodly’ bits! It was rich and creepy, with organ music and plenty of echo. Spot on.

The drive of Olivia and Samantha as the detectives guaranteed the pace galloped along. Mrs. D (Fiona Forster) was magnificent as the nervous, yet ingenious housekeeper. You could feel Lucy’s fear.

A powerful fun show that showed a huge amount of hard work.