Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A deadly serious tale of horror


Dudley Little Theatre

Netherton Arts Centre


WHAT a shame! It can happen to anybody, of course, but on the first night it happened to the perennially reliable John Lucock, longstanding stalwart of this talented group. Fifteen minutes before the end of a wordy evening, his words unaccountably disappeared, leaving him in a totally uncharacteristic duet with prompt corner. 

It became even more surprising when Fate's victim, the script having briefly required him to take his leave, then came on again with his customary confidence.

You never know. You really never know – which is why, even if I had any acting ability, you would never find me pretending I had any hope whatever of remembering my lines. It is also why I salute all those thespians, amateur and professional, who seem to take the nightly challenge in their stride – as  John Lucock has habitually done for years. 

And it was a particular shame, because until then this production by Lyndsey Parker and David Hutchins had given every indication of rolling without a push. Bram Stoker's drama, adapted by David Calcutt, has more short scenes than you could shake a stick at, but they follow each other with commendable slickness and their content is well oiled. 

Moreover, at no point does melodrama get the upper hand. Nowhere, in a subject ripe for mickey-taking, is there a hint of a titter. This is a deadly serious Dracula of controlled confidence, with a cast of thousands – well, 22 – among whom John Lucock, until those unfortunate few minutes, had been giving a solidly reliable account of Professor Van Helsing. 

James Silvers: a Dracula of quiet menace.

James Silvers is a Dracula of quiet menace who regards his situation with “terrible joy, insatiable hunger.” There is sterling work, too, from Karen Whittingham as Lucy, the first victim of the Prince of Darkness;  and David Hutchins makes a remarkable contribution of madness as Renfield, the clearly deranged character who likes eating flies, spiders and birds – alive. At one point, he virtually takes us into the realms of Shakespearian oratory. 

Liane Purnell (Mina), Jean Potter (Mrs Westenra), Christopher Hughes (Dr Seward) and Tony Stamp, who at one point is required to demonstrate that Jonathan is a quite remarkably sound sleeper, are also prominent – but there are many other honest toilers making it all seem so natural and so easy. 

Claire Heatherington's Mrs Outhwaite is not required until late-on – at which point she moves unfalteringly into a challengingly loquacious few minutes, solo. And young Ollie Clee – “Boy” – takes on his own soliloquy head-on as he sits with his legs dangling over the front of the stage and addresses the audience. 

Excellent! Just briefly unfortunate. To 11-12-10

John Slim 

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