Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Winter is coming, and the weather turned in Glasgow on Wednesday night to add atmosphere before and after the National Theatre of Scotland’s new look at Bram Stoker’s endlessly reimagined gothic horror. So embedded into the collective psyche is Stoker’s mythic yarn concerning his eponymous Transylvanian vampire sucking the life out of all around that we think we know the story when likely as not we don’t.

This works to the advantage of writer Morna Pearson and director Sally Cookson, who conceived their version with Rosie Kellagher and an eight strong all woman and non-binary ensemble. Their telling duly becomes a show of strength, in which Dracula’s victims seize control of their own destiny.

Relocated to Aberdeen, and written in a rich and rollicking Doric, Pearson’s story opens with Mina and co incarcerated in an asylum, with only Mina’s former true love Jonathan’s journal for entertainment and enlightenment. Mina’s own experiences unlock a Pandora’s box that stays faithful to Stoker’s original while reclaiming it as a feminist call to arms.

Cookson’s slow burning production is no dry polemic, however. Like Mina, Pearson cuts loose with the more playful side of her writing. This comes through most in the depictions of the story’s increasingly ridiculous male characters. Both Natalie Arle-Toyne’s bumptious Van Helsing and Maggie Bain’s stuck in the dark ages Dr Seward talk in hilariously archaic jargon worthy of an unreconstructed 1970s sitcom. Like Danielle Jam’s wilfully individually Mina, you wonder what her drippy mate Lucy sees in Seward.

Liz Kettle’s marvellously androgynous Dracula at times borders on pantomime villain status, with Benji Bower’s brooding score and Lewis den Hertog’s swirling video work lighting up Kenneth MacLeod’s pitch black set in explosive fashion.

At the heart of this big, bold co-production between the NTS and Aberdeen Performing Arts in association with the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, however, is a passionate craving for liberation that goes beyond first blood to suggest a storm to come.