When I got my tickets for this Steampunk rendition of Bram Stoker’s novel I had no idea it was a world premiere. The packed house was rowdy even for a 9:20pm start time, aided no doubt by the chaos in the Pleasance courtyard below. The set is composed mostly of low scaffolding that is used athletically by the extremely physical Dracula and co. I love a show where the actors are also the musicians, and this ensemble included not only the essential elements of a rock band, but also a violin, bass, flute and cello that were expertly played and nearly flying across the stage in this extremely energetic performance. The costumes were fantastic, especially those of Mina and Lucy and I coveted every corset.
The director, Alexandra Spencer-Jones, made some interesting choices with gender, most obviously making Doctor Seward female. One of Dracula’s ‘wives’ was male, which also added an interesting twist to the story that everyone thinks they know. This was definitely an adaptation of the famous movie, using many of the details that were added to the film that never appeared in the book. But, they made some other additions like great stage combat and a more empowered Mina for their own flavor and I really enjoyed the whole performance, which included original songs as well as covers of some unexpected ones.
The only downside was the audience itself. One girl in my row got nauseous from the special effects blood (of which there is a lot, so be prepared if you are squeamish), but the worst were the idiots who laughed over and over at inappropriate moments. For some reason just the name Van Helsing elicited giggles. These were also the same people who gave a standing ovation at the end though, which makes me think they were probably friends and family of the actors and were reacting more to seeing their loved ones acting strangely than to the acting itself, which was great. Renfield’s crazy and Lucy’s delirium were fantastic, and the manic Dracula was alternatingly sensual and spasmatic (in the best possible way).
The company, Action to the Word, has been touring all over the world with its version of A Clockwork Orange, and this is their newest addition to theater scene.
Get your Ed Fringe tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dracula
There is more than one Dracula at Fringe this year, so make sure you get tickets for the right one!
Stephen Sommers, who brought us the special effects-laden reboot of The Mummy in 1999, also lent his imagination (as well as his pen) to create Van Helsing in 2004. Even though both films are almost a decade or more old they are some of my absolute favorites for their combination of action, visual effects and fun.
Gabriel Van Helsing (played by Hugh Jackman) is a monster hunter with a mysterious past. He is employed by the Catholic church to seek out and destroy evil, but remembers nothing before he was charged with his holy quest. As far as I can tell, the only thing this Van Helsing has in common with the Dutch doctor and do-gooder Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is the name.
The film starts with an homage to classic black and white movies as an angry mob attacks castle Frankenstein in 1887. Sommers’ twist is that the good doctor’s financial backer is none other than Count Dracula. Van Helsing enters the movie with an epic confrontation between him and a truly monstrous Mr. Hyde (of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) on the rooftop of Notre Dame. Later, Van Helsing is charged with slaying Dracula in time to protect the souls of the Valerius family, who vowed they would never rest until the vampire met his demise. With the help of his techno-whiz sidekick, a friar named Carl, Van Helsing travels to Transylvania and to aid the last members of the tragic tribe before nine generations are shut out of heaven.
Sommers’ creates a plot that incorporates Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, as well as the Wolfman. He also gives a much larger role to Dracula’s three ‘brides’ (which by the way, are not identified as such in the novel) and they provide some wonderful action sequences as they terrorize the nearby village as flying monsters in order to hunt down Anna Valerius (played by Kate Beckinsale). Though the roots of this movie clearly come from a love of classic horror films, the time, literary characters and gadgets (like a gas-powered repeating crossbow) land it squarely in the Steampunk canon.
There is an animated prequel called Van Helsing: The London Assignment which you can read more about and watch here.
I also recently found out that there is another Van Helsing movie planned, but it is going to be a “reboot” starring Tom Cruise. Check out that story here.
Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
I have been seeing Steampunk pop up lately on mainstream networks like ABC and CBS. For instance, the clip above is from the show Castle starring the oh so talented Nathan Fillion (who first came to my attention in Joss Whedon’s space western Firefly) checking out a Steampunk bar in NYC. (Check out this article for more info: http://www.alterna-tv.com/castle/steampunk.htm)
I also found out right after I wrote my Time Machine post that The Big Bang Theory has an episode where they get a hold of a replica of the movie prop.
But, I think the best new Steampunk TV is NBC’s Dracula. In this “punked” version of Bram Stoker’s classic novel the count we all know and love (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is posing as an American entrepreneur in Victorian England. His business? Taking out a secret society of wealthy lords through the miracle of scientific innovation and of course, biting people and smoldering. Episode 3 airs tonight at 10/9c on NBC. (http://www.nbc.com/dracula/)