Dancing Dracula Raises Stakes In Spoof Musical
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
Comedian Nick Mohammed's character Mr Swallow is a man who always wants to be in the limelight. Both childish and child-like, this moon-faced, short, egotistical chatterbox makes for an unusual Count Dracula.
But then, Mohammed had us on side just with the concept for this spoof. Dracula… as a musical – it's already funny. Throw in the supporting cast of David Elms as the musical's increasingly exasperated director, Kieran Hodgson as a sidelined Jonathan Harker and Johanna Grace as Mina, whose operatic vocals hint at the outstanding spectacle Mr Swallow is sabotaging, and you've got all the ingredients of a winning production in front of us.
Mr Swallow is a constant calamity on stage, with his habit of changing lines on a whim or even inventing brand-new characters mid-scene, making him a palpable presence as we try, but fail, to anticipate what direction he'll go in next. A journey to confront the Count, for example, is thwarted by Swallow's transformation into a Liverpudlian gatekeeper at a ferry terminal. The scene, inserted into Bram Stoker's gothic story, is as surreal as it sounds and occasional corpsing from the cast only adds to the fun.
Dracula! is a bit inconsistent overall though. It goes back-and-forth from musical number to comedy set-piece rather than allowing the audience to be truly gripped by the bumpy ride to Transylvania promised in the early scenes. There's a yearning for a bit more plot to build tension and then unravel, rather than the kaleidoscopic quality the show ends up having.
However, it's better to see a production falter through ambition rather than one that just plays it safe. And it is an interesting development for Mohammed's Mr Swallow with more than enough bat-shit craziness to recommend it.
Please note this review was written on the basis of an opening night preview.
Dracula! (Mr Swallow — The Musical) runs until 28 February at Soho Theatre, 9pm. Tickets £10 (Mon 9th & Tuesday 10th), £15 Mon-Thu, £20 Fri-Sat, matinees £12.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 10 February 2015