Friend: “Anyone fancy seeing a production of Dracula in a Tudor mansion?”
Me: “HELLS YEAH”
Sutton House. Source: NationalTrust.org
This past Tuesday, Teabreak Theatre took over the suitably spooky Sutton House in Hackney, East London, for their immersive production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Upon arrival, we were asked to fill out a form with our names and addresses, greatest fear, blood type, and a routine disclaimer absolving the House of any harm that might befall us. Standard stuff. You get a moment to get drinks from their polite mixologist genius at the courtyard bar (try ‘Death in the Afternoon’, a ghostly gin and violet-liqueur concoction).
A tour guide brings you upstairs to give you a little bit of history of the house. You can bring your drinks up with you, but a curious sign on the stairs forbids red wine; whether that’s a playful nod to its similarity to blood or a genuine ‘please don’t fuck up our historic furnishings with the stainiest stainer of all booze’, I didn’t think to ask. But then began the Company’s unique interpretation of Stoker’s classic. If you think you know immersive horror, think again. My advice? Don’t try to shut up those annoyingly chatty members of your tour group…
After some shaky opening performances and inevitable, first-night technical issues, the story picks up, the narrative switches gears, and the actors finally start to sink their teeth (sorry) into their roles. And there’s great chemistry among them – moving and bittersweet with Jonathan (Chris Dobson) and Mina (Molly Small), and playfully comedic from the fly-nomming, scene-stealing Renfield (Emily Essery).
The troupe makes creepily effective use of their limited space and props by some inventive bursts of sound misdirection. In an old house whose every floorboard has its own creak, you’ve basically got a Hallowe’en sound-effects version of the giant keyboard from Big.
It’s important to know that, while most of the scenes take place in a large reception room, there is some walking around across rooms and up and down stairs, so comfortable shoes are recommended. It can get chilly, so keep your coat on. Oh, and wear a thick scarf around your neck. No reason.