Spell-binding Performances in this Stunning Portrayal
Lyric Theatre,Brisbane, Wednesday 24 November
Review by Adelle Givney
“Dark and passionate, this eternal love story will draw you in and stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.” Written by Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director, Li Cunxin, AO, this bold statement headlines his introduction in the program. Dracula is staged at QPAC in conjunction with the Western Australian Ballet, and due to the pandemic, it has been a long time coming to Brisbane. Was it worth the wait?
From the moment the curtains opened to depict a medieval gothic castle, the audience was spellbound. The sets were outstanding, the lighting accenting aspects of the ballet, bringing the story of the ill-fated Count Dracula to a whole new audience.
Commissioned Polish choreographer, Krzystof Pastor wanted ‘to make a piece about love’ and this is evident with how the relationships between the characters are explored. Count Dracula is first introduced saying goodbye to his beloved wife, Elizabeth, and leaves her for war. She believes him to be killed, and suicides by jumping off the top of the castle. When the Count returns to find her dead and refused burial by the church, he renounces God and becomes a vampire.
So sets the scene for this sometimes-grisly tale. With music by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, the contrasting styles help create two distinct tempers – that of the darkness that is Dracula’s castle, and the lighter, lively London party atmosphere. Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra – ably led by Nigel Gaynor – provided the perfect balance of light and shade, to an exceptional level.
400 years later, a young English solicitor, Jonathan Harker (Camilo Ramos), arrives by a very cleverly-constructed carriage at the castle to finalise the Count’s purchase of English land. Six vampires (Laura Tosar, Vanessa Morelli, Sophie Zoricic, Dylan Lackey, Vito Bernasconi, Rian Thompson) are also at the castle, and they assault Jonathon while he is sleeping.
The dance sequences during these scenes are arresting – combining classical ballet with contemporary and lyrical moves. With outstanding costuming, the dark lighting and intense music provides an atmosphere rarely seen in a ballet production.
The stand out for me were the phantoms Liam Geck and Patricio Revé whose synchronicity was impressive, while executing classical leaps, turns and extensions with inspiring elevation.
While at the court, Jonathon sustains a paper cut, and the lust-fuelled tango that ensues is nothing short of brilliant.
Jonathon’s fiancée, Mina, has been left behind in London, with her friend Lucy, who becomes engaged to one of her two courters. While at their engagement party, Dracula arrives to find Mina, who holds a great likeness to his dead wife, Elizabeth. The party takes a dark turn, with the Count restoring to his youth with fresh infusions of blood. The dancing during this and the previous party scenes are almost garish in their difference to the scenes in the castle.
The two leads playing Old Dracula (Alexander Ideszak) and Young Dracula (Victor Estevez) respectively are simply spectacular. Traditionally cloaked, with long flowing locks of either white or black, they provided an arresting display of gothic darkness.
D’Arcy Brazier portrayed the tormented Renfield in the asylum, and gave a performance that was captivating in its intensity. The music weaves around him and his movement, leaving the audience wanting more.
There are no negatives in this mesmerizing dramatic production. At times loud and intense and at others almost silent – and the audience did not stir. In fact clapping was minimal throughout as you didn’t want to break the spell. A stunningly contemporary portrayal breathes new life into this old tale. Don’t miss out on seeing what is sure to be the Ballet of the Year.
Queensland Ballet’s Dracula, until December 4, Lyric Theatre, QPAC: qpac.com.au