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Mark Bruce Dance Company - Dracula - Autumn 2014


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I finally caught up with the Mark Bruce Dance Company's production of Dracula in Manchester last Saturday.  After reading so much about the production last year I had really high expectations and they were absolutely not disappointed!!

 

I loved the wit and humour in this production and the fact that this in no way detracted from the disturbing nature of the plot.  I loved the three "brides of Dracula" being used as a sort of chorus.  I loved the set, especially the gothic gates that added so much to the spooky atmosphere.  I loved the horses and the wolves.

 

Most of all, I loved Jonathan Goddard as Dracula - his incredible stage presence was a brooding menace throughout the performance.

 

I found it very easy to follow the progression of the story.

 

Coincidentally, within the eclectic and atmospheric score Mark Bruce had chosen to use some of the same pieces of Schnittke that David Nixon has used in his production of Dracula.

 

This is a seriously wonderful piece of dance drama and I hope you will all try and see it during this tour! 

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I went to see Mark Bruce’s Dracula at the Arts Depot in London last night. I saw one piece of Bruce’s work, back in about 2003, at The Place here in London. It was one of the worst things I have ever seen live, but the flip side of that is that when I was spouting forth to a dancer friend of mine about how awful it was and why, he told me that I should check out ballet.co.uk and start posting some thoughts up there. Well…..here I am, 11 years later, still spouting forth!

 

However, this time I have come to praise Mark Bruce, not bury him. Burying is a good place to start talking about Dracula, as of course there are coffins involved, and, going in and out of the ground, the undead who have been buried but aren’t now…... This sounds trite, but there is nowhere in this piece where you don’t totally believe what is going on, despite the somewhat (to a 21st century audience) ludicrous story. However, as with the Bram Stoker novel, this isn’t to be taken literally; it is a metaphor for many things (my husband has a theory that it was really about the actor Henry Irving, whose amanuensis Stoker was….he drained Stoker dry, sucked the lifeblood out of him and only came alive at night!) and all of these possibilities are explored in this marvellous piece of dance theatre, which is one of the best things I have seen on a stage for a very long time.

 

There are the three vampire brides, beautifully danced by all three dancers. But this is not only dancing; it is also acting, and very convincing acting at that. These girls veer from terrifying, gnashing, blood sucking creatures to the three graces, and various stages in between. They are sexy, they are scary, and gosh are they good. I found it interesting that they, and Dracula himself, always weep after each attack, as if they loathe what they are condemned to doing for the rest of time, and abhor the fact that they can’t help themselves. There is the battle between good and evil, between God and the unbelieving, between virtue and tainting and sexuality and repression. All of these themes are beautifully conveyed, even when in a very dark and disturbing way. However, aside from the gore and the dark Gothic theme to this piece, there are many moments of beauty and even some of comedy. The whole cast, each performing multiple characters, delivers the goods.

 

Jonathan Goddard was not your conventional Dracula with a cape and a top hat who turns into a bat at night. He was in trainers and jeans, and aside from the rather Lou Ferigno-ish makeup looked just like the rest of us….which is why we are scared of him. His depth of characterisation, together with that of the three girls, renders this whole piece believable and therefore frightening. Not in an ‘I need to hide behind the sofa’ kind of way, but it makes you think about the many fears, dark things and dark places in all of us. He screams, he cries, he howls, he agonises….and we are there with him, willing him to finally find peace for his tortured soul. Add to this his smooth, fluid dancing, and here is a creature that won’t easily be forgotten.

 

This wonderful piece would not have been half as spectacular as it is without many fertile imaginations converging to create one of the finest sets/props/costumes I have seen in a new production for years. Majestic animal masks, very effective costumes (and many of them as there are changes involved for each different character), very clever props and my goodness, a set of grey gates that is as Gothic as you will find anywhere. A lovely contrast to the grey and dingy demimonde inhabited by these creatures is the white dove used to deliver letters between the Harkers….this reminds us that amidst the gloom there is light, and purity (not to mention the religious symbolism of the white dove). Add in the most atmospheric lighting on any stage in London, and some dry ice, and the effect starts the mind turning and the heart beating before Jonathan appears onstage and beautifully dances his introduction. For once, a bit of dark lighting was just the thing, but somehow the audience was never kept in the dark at all; this lighting designer managed to convey the gloom of a Victorian night without depriving us of the ability to see what was going on. The choice of music is eclectic, ranging from Mozart to Ligeti to Schnittke, and hits the spot perfectly for each part of the piece that it accompanies.

 

I cannot praise this production too highly; Dracula has already won awards and is up for more….I do hope it wins many as it deserves them. I am so very sorry that I could only catch it once, but if any of you can get to The Old Market in Brighton on December 2nd, 3rd or 4th……get thee hence and have one of the best theatrical experiences available to us at the moment.

 

Choreography/Production and some music: Mark Bruce

Music: Various composers, recorded

Set Design: Phil Eddols

Lighting Design: Guy Hoare

 

Dracula: Jonathan Goddard

Three vampire brides: Nicole Guarino, Grace Jabbari and Hannah Kidd

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Did you have a post-show Q & A session?  It was very interesting to hear Mark Bruce talk about his inspiration and vision for the piece.  Jonathan Goddard, and some of the other cast members came out too.  Almost as a paradox, they came across as nice and down to earth, although of course they are exceptionally talented people.

 

I would second everything Sim says about Dracula above.  My previous experience of Mark Bruce's work was "Made in Heaven" the last work he did in UK before Dracula.   It was very different and quite surreal.  Both DH and I loved it and just talking about it brings a broad grin to our faces! 

 

Edited to add last paragraph

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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Will try to go next Thursday

 

Haven't seen any advertising about this in Brighton.

 

The Old Market is a theatre off the main drag from Brighton to Hove roughly on the border of the two.

It's a while since Ive been there.

If I make it I'll post a review.

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There wasn't much advertising in London, either, and as a result there were quite a few empty seats.  This performance merits being sold out, each and every show. 

 

I do hope you get to go, LinMM, and if so, I look forward to hearing your views.

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I thought Mark Bruce's DRACULA a STUNNING affair.  It was entirely insightful.  This Dracula will surely, as it so richly deserves, help place the UK's dance scene on - at least in this instance - a wholly deserved pinnacal.  It has been - with the exception of Wheeldon's brilliant coming to maturity in THE WINTER'S TALE for the Royal Ballet - a long time since I experienced a dance narrative SO respectfully wrought in terms of its source material; so potently varied in terms of the humane embodiment of its own period's cultural references and foibles.  The two music hall references inserted into Mark Bruce's scintillating script weren't in any way twee.  Not at all.  They were as seriously defining as the intriguing transformation of the hounds into the horses drawn in front of the 'vampirical' coach amazed and beguiled.  One's admiration only ever balloned upwards.  Every element was here skillfully tendered.  The literacy employed throughout (musically, choreographically, scenically, etc.,) was supreme.  Everything lay in the intoxicating complexity of its detail.  Bruce's frequent sense of stillness injected an additional chill.  So much so indeed that the audience became entirely relaxed in their involvement from the very get go.  Instantly we were transformed - nay, transfixed - as was the stellar Jonathan Goddard and all involved  The precision was clockwork.  We, the audience, become the first and last character at the heart each vivid dance study in this seriously wrought slice of drama.  Its blood was was ours as well.  The effect was cumulative.  It had been our privilege.  This was far, far better than anything merely labelled 'good'; Mark Bruce's work is viscerally brave.  I SO loved the ending.  It vividly held a mirror up to the fragility of our own natures without unduly calling attention to itself.  We too have been - and will continue to be - smitten.  We too must inevitably roll into our own dark.  Leaving the Arts Depot I'd only one thought in mind:  When can I see this again?  I can think of no higher compliment that. [it was a treat to run into BcoF's Alison and together we sat during the interval with the show's publicist who noted that - having toured twice -Mark Bruce's Dracula would not tour again in the UK. ]

 

 There is no question but that this DRACULA deserves to be seen internationally and in deservingly unique spaces (as is outlined as part of the Company's remit).  I personally felt the stealth of this extraordinary narrative would have been a wonderful addition to our own dear National Theatre.  It could/should hold its head as high as the best of the output therein.  Certainly this DRACULA deserves to be seen in the chief dance capitals of our world; Paris and New York.  In Manhattan I would love to see it play in front of the subscription audiences (always at a capacity; sold out even before their original box offices open) of NYTW or the CSC.  It would glimmer in much rightful admiration.  Of that I'm confident.

 

Mark Bruce's Dracula is - in an of itself - an extraordinary cultural ambassador.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Well between the eloquent reviews of both Sim and Bruce it would now seem almost churlish not to make the effort to see it!!!

 

I'll ring tomorrow and hope they've got seats left for Thursday.

 

It does then seem a shame this was not put on at one of the Dome complexes theatres or even at the Theatre Royal. I don't believe the capacity at the Old Market is all that much.

 

They are supposed to be building a brand new Dance Centre in Brighton with a performing space. Ive heard plans are passed and finance is there so hopefully if this is ready as originally planned for 2017 works like this may get a higher profile here in Brighton.

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I went to see this yesterday in Brighton and I really thought it was fantastic.

 

I wasn't sure what to expect as I don't know this Company but the previous reviews on this are spot on ....this is a real treat.

 

The Old Market in Hove(just) is only a small venue suitably for this show down in the basement and I reckoned seated about two hundred people. It's very well raked so all tickets are the same price and you get a brilliant view wherever you sit. I was about half way down on the end of a row so everything was very close up.

 

It's difficult to know where to start with this because I loved everything about it!!

 

I haven't read the book so my knowledge of Dracula is limited to the usual films ....some closer to the original text than others apparently but this was enough to understand the general goings on and Bruce has a highly original take on it all anyway.

 

It is presented in a series of fast moving and changing scenes almost like a film in a way but I think the staging of this is fabulous.

I loved the scene with the horses and wolves galloping through the night very dramatic and atmospheric....the wooing of Lucy quite deliciously funny .....the visitations by Dracula(chucking her around as if gossamer light) ever more intense and the terribleness of her death.....plenty of blood and real horror here.......so many fantastic scenes. I imagine each time one goes one would find another standing out.

When I was reading the programme initially and saw the enormous range of music .....13 different composers .....for 22 different scenes ....I thought it might be a bit bitty but no .....each scene was perfectly accompanied by the music and seamlessly evolved into the next just as in the movies......with some beautiful images throughout......the ending with the three vampire brides strung up as almost symbolic of the crucifixion scene while Mina and Dracula danced into a new kind of relationship was particularly stunning. Unlike the original film era where vampires were fair game to be destroyed .....in this version (as it is in more recent films) it's the destroyers you have less sympathy for and more feeling for the vampires and their fate.

The dance was pretty eclectic too starting with a wonderfully performed solo introducing Dracula......with that lightness of a creature of the night .....with powers of flight! As others have said Jonathon Goddard was brilliant in this role creating both menace and sympathy. But all the dancers were excellent in their roles.

I usually think dancers aren't so good expressing with their voices(difference of breathing habits I think) but not this lot they could scream with the best. Although the main style was contemporary there was quite a few bits of more balletic style with some very quick beaten steps at one point done in perfect unison and light and airy and some folk (Romanian.....not sure?) and even a bit of tap!

 

But it's the dramatic story telling which is at the heart of this work I think and this was totally absorbing......particularly as I had a double wasp sting that afternoon and it completely took my mind of my somewhat throbbing ankle!

 

I looked to see where this is going next but it seems to end in Brighton in my programme but if it's on anywhere after Christmas it's definitely worth seeking out.

I couldn't persuade my partner to go to this but after I told him about it (he is a film man) he would like to see it now so obviously will have to catch it somewhere else if we can!!

Thanks Sim for telling me about this as I would have missed it otherwise!

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Wasp stings at this time of year? Did you have an infestation following a lot of rain? A couple of times this has happened to us and there were literally dozens of wasps dozily moving around a room. I hope that the throbbing has subsided. Wasp stings can be surprisingly painful. I know because I've had quite a few, and bee stings as well.

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Also just wanted to clarify that there were 13 different composers used but 22 different pieces of music for each of the 22 scenes as the same composers were used twice on occasions. I still don't know how he made that all come together so well obviously had some genius moments!!

 

The wasps!! We thought there might be a nest at the base of our holly tree at the end of last summer and I got stung on the leg a couple of months ago but while putting back the bird feeder I managed to acquire two stings on my ankle.....I didn't see the wasps at first so must have disturbed them. It has been very mild until now.

Anyway my ankle is now really swollen up and red and the Doc thinks have just had some allergic reaction(unusual for me) so am piling on the antihistamine which I don't normally have to use.

 

Looks a bit like I have been bitten by a vampire in fact!

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You're sure it was a wasp? I had a very nasty bite on *my* ankle over the summer sometime, and I still don't know what caused it, but it took a lot of antihistamines to get it down to more manageable proportions.

 

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, and thank you for posting your reactions, Lin.

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