Based on the works by Bram Stoker
Adapted, Produced and Directed by James Hyland

As someone who is a scaredy cat when it comes to horror, I felt apprehensive to see Dracula’s Guest, however, I needn’t have worried - whilst there were plenty of shocks in James Hyland’s adaptation, it failed to leave me quaking in my seat.

The play opens with a simple but unnerving set; a long table cloaked in black cloth, a plate with a severed bloody pig’s head and an anxious bearded man rocking back and forth on a chair. An imposing alpha male strides on to the stage, his presence juxtaposed by what he carries, a child’s music box. The theatre is flooded with its eerie tune and the atmospheric tension rises.

A long debate between the two dominates the first half of the play with the distressed man, Renfield, accusing the self-assured Count Dracula, of keeping him hostage. Ashton Spear’s physical depiction of Renfield portrays that of a maddened victim, tortured by his captivity and treatment by the Count, yet his verbal delivery evokes more of an impertinent teenager, shouting accusations without a thought of the consequences. Count Dracula, played by James Hyland, dismisses his guest’s claims as ridiculous and convincingly flits between the persona of accommodating host and terrifying captor.

Renfield although seemingly wracked with terror, does not bat an eyelid when Dracula says, ‘…you know I am a vampire’, which begs the question of what Renfield is afraid of. Is he anguished about his lack of freedom more than the blood-sucking vampire sat opposite him?

Dracula’s intentions with his ‘guest’ remain unclear for the first half of the play, as he rants about the British Empire and the ‘colonialists’ being to blame for everything. The Count seems to offer Renfield two options, to drink his vampire blood and become immortal or ‘eat the maggot and thank the fly’ – I know what you’re thinking – WTF is going on? Provoked by the title of the play, I was left bemused as to what Renfield had to do with anything that Dracula was so enraged about. My thoughts were hilariously mirrored when Renfield, who at this point was cowered on the floor pulling at his hair in exasperation, sputtered, ‘but I am just a chartered surveyor!’

Hyland and Spear attempt to throw some life into the dialogue by projecting every other line from a whisper to a shout. This however, only served to keep us startingly awake, rather than connect with the characters.

Ashton Spear’s physical acting abilities really shone through in the second half of the play when Renfield goes through a life-changing transformation and without giving too many spoilers, becomes a twitching, nibbling, rabid creature. This catapults the ending of the play into action, with blood, gore and shock factor at the heart. All I can say is, perhaps we should not love thy neighbour after all…