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Sunday, June 17, 2018

New play leads in the novel Dracula stakes

* Hanna Edwards as Lucy and Dan Pedley
in the title role of Dracula.
We know Dracula can turn himself into a bat or a big black dog.

But he can also become quite a cantankerous story character, or at least he can according to a new play premiered in Chirk last night (Saturday).
Penned by first-time playwright Esme Sallnow for PunkSteam Productions fresh from her acclaimed starring role in Llangollen Operatic Society’s recent smash-hit production of My Fair Lady, Dracula grafts a fascinating and humorous new twist onto the classic tale of the old Transylvanian bloodsucker.   

And, throughout the two acts of action, it sees the count holding regular, heated artistic conversations with its author Bram Stoker who’s sitting just off stage with Mrs Stoker scratching away at the legendary piece of Victorian melodrama.
Drac frequently breaks off his speeches to argue with his creator on the way his character is being portrayed, too hard, too soft etc.

It’s an interesting gambit which, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t detract too much from the plot while putting an interesting new human light on the guy who was the Prince of Darkness way before Ozzy Osbourne nicked the title.
And this new depth he’s given is interpreted well by the actor playing him, Dan Pedley, who’s already had his share of successes with a number of local amateur groups.

The play itself, directed by the author, sticks pretty much to the 1896-set Stoker novel, with a likely female victim Lucy Westenra falling under the spell and then the flashing fangs of the master vampire as she holidays in Whitby.
She’s played with a delicate touch by Hannah Edwards who is also rapidly making a name for herself on the area’s am-dram circuit.

Strong support comes from John Clifford, mainstay of many a local acting group, in the key role of vampire hunter Van Helsing, complete with doom-laden pronouncements delivered in a delightfully thick mittle European accent.
Like the rest of the cast he’s also clearly playing it for laughs wearing as he does a motorcycle helmet and goggles for the bit where he serves up the now-vampirical Lucy with a medium rare stake right through the heart.

This is something of a family affair for the Cliffords as John’s wife Lizzie gives a forceful interpretation of Mina Murray, Lucy’s cousin who eventually has quite an unexpected effect on Count D, while son Joe skilfully plays Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s drippy fiancĂ©.   
Jo Lloyd, another accomplished amateur performer and director, takes the part of Lucy’s mother Mrs Westenra and does so with style. And further strong support comes from Rea Hughes as Dr Jane Seward who tries to make sense of everything when Lucy’s starts to get it in the neck.

Kevin Williams puts in a very neat performance as Mr Renfield, one of the count’s willing adherents who has rather a taste for live birds and spiders.
Valuable contributions to the action also come from Jim and Pat Broderick as the Stokers, Michael Wall who has a stagger-on part as Victor Frankenstein – yes, he’s in it too – Sandy Williams, Ann Wall, Katy Lloyd and Cady Williams, all multi-roling like mad.

This is a memorable first stab at playwriting by Esme Sallnow which could easily be the first of numerous successes.
Dracula now flaps off for an appearance at Hermon Chapel in Oswestry for performances on Thursday and Friday June 21 and 22.

* Tickets are £10 on the door and £5 age 16 and under. They are available direct from the venue on 01691 662196.

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