Stage review: Dracula - Leeds Playhouse

gothic revival: Northern Ballet's Dracula is in the newly refurbished Quarry Theatre at Leeds Playhouse this week.
gothic revival: Northern Ballet's Dracula is in the newly refurbished Quarry Theatre at Leeds Playhouse this week.

In two decades of writing about it, I can recall a small number of moments where the true magic of theatre occurs. I add to that list a moment from Northern Ballet’s Dracula.

It was the pas de deux between Dracula and Mina, the moment in which they finally succumbed to their desires. As the dance played out, a writhing, sexually tense, animalistic yet delicate piece of work, it was as though the audience held its collective breath and became locked into the dance. Everything else disappeared. Pure magic.

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It is one of a number of moments in David Nixon’s Dracula that will live long in the memory. A more fitting first production in the newly refurbished Quarry Theatre of Leeds Playhouse I couldn’t imagine (NB: something special has happened to the Quarry – it is more intimate and inviting than you will ever have experienced it).

Nixon, the increasingly impressive artistic director of Northern Ballet whose stature grows with each production, first created this ballet in 2005; it was the perfect choice to be revived for this 50th anniversary year.

That it was last night filmed and broadcast live to cinemas around the country, a first for the theatre and the dance company, is a brilliant thing: the production looks spectacular.

From the descent down the side of a castle by the vampire to the death of Lucy and the dance of the Brides of Dracula, the production looks like it has been made for a stage as epic as this and screens as big as a cinema’s.

The women in this ballet, as they often do in Nixon’s work, come out strong. Abigail Prudames has a storied career with this company and she can add Mina to the roles in which she excels. Premier dancer Antoinette Brooks-Daw is magnetic as Lucy. She dominates the stage when she’s on it.

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In the title role Javier Torres is powerful. It is a demanding role and there are some interesting choices in his performance. The best work is the small and detailed. Big set pieces reveal some lack of tightness among the whole company, but in the intimate moments, when the major characters are telling their story, it is flawless.

Northern Ballet’s Dracula is at Leeds Playhouse until November 2.

Rating: 5/5