Dracula: Review (Big Finish, 2016)

BFCL007_dracula_1417SQBy Bram Stoker, adapted by Jonathan Barnes

Directed by Scott Handcock

Bram Stoker’s original tale brought to life on audio…

As mentioned elsewhere, I listened to this straight after another Big Finish novel adaptation, one which had taken a number of liberties with the plot and characterisation in order to create a satisfying two-hour audio drama. But, according to Soph – who’s just finished reading the original for the first time – this is extremely accurate to the text (minus, and I quote “all the faffing about introducing Lucy”) with a couple of extra scenes that fill in areas that would have been difficult for Stoker to dramatize given the format he uses – and a little coda that we’ll come to shortly. Jonathan Barnes’ script grabs Stoker’s sometimes meandering text and forces it into a strongly focused narrative, with Mina penning an account of the adventure and incorporating the various memoranda, letters, journals etc. that comprise the book.

The Count is ever-present through the story, even if he doesn’t appear in as many scenes as you might believe, and Mark Gatiss gives a chilling rendition of Dracula, all the more so because of its restraint for much of the time… so when he does let rip, it’s very effective. Deidre Mullins’ Mina brings out the strength of the character despite the innate sexism of those around her – I’d love to hear her in an audio version of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as her version of Mina fits that perfectly. Joseph Kloska’s Jonathan Harker runs the gamut of emotions, perhaps a little madder at times than you’d expect but nonetheless powerful. Ian Hallard’s Renfield is perhaps the most frightening of all the characters, and one of the rare times that Stoker’s version is portrayed (you’ll come to certain scenes expecting one particular ghoulish thing to happen; instead it’s something else!).

The suitors are all well-cast: Rupert Young’s John Seward, Alex Jordan’s Arthur Holmwood, and David Menkin’s Quincey P. Morris (a prototype Captain Jack, at least in this version) all shine, while Rosanna Miles makes Lucy far less irritating than the character sometimes feels. As for Van Helsing, Nigel Betts picks up on the hints in the text and the audio narrative that perhaps the vampire slayer is enjoying this just a little too much… There are also some nicely played cameos from Edward Petherbridge and Katy Manning (and do listen to the outtakes for an interesting version of one of her scenes!).

Iain Meadows’ sound design and James Dunlop’s music fuse well to create the many different environments required of the story, neither allowing the drama to become melodrama – something that seems to have been a lynchpin of Scott Handcock’s assured direction of the piece. There’s a hint at the end that maybe the Count isn’t gone (and even a question mark over Quincey Harker’s parentage) so one does wonder if a sequel is on the cards…

Verdict: Another highly effective piece of audio drama; highly recommended, even if you think you already know the story. 10/10

Paul Simpson

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