Vampirella – Smock Alley – Review

Vampirella – Smock Alley – Review by Frank L.

The Royal Irish Academy of Music in collaboration with The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art
Composed by Siobhán Cleary based on the radio play by Angela Carter

Until March 25th

Originally written as a radio play in 1976 by Angela Carter, she subsequently transposed it into a short story “The Lady in the House of Love”. Katy Hayes, as librettist, has made a further transposition with Cleary writing the music. The production is a collaboration by the Royal Irish Academy of Music and The Lir Academy of Dramatic Art. It is in fact a world premiere.

The orchestra consists of 2 violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a harp, 2 flutes and a (bass) clarinet. There are four voices; the Countess (Sarah Brady soprano), Hero (Philip Keegan tenor), Count Dracula (Tim Shaffrey baritone) and Mrs.Beane (Eimear McCarthy Luddy mezzo soprano). There is a chorus of eight voices who also take on other characters such as a priest, a gatekeeper and a cat and some of them even become ancestral portraits affixed to the walls. There are also various electronic effects, which intensify the vampiric world in which the action takes place.

The set has the orchestra in an elongated triangle placed along the back wall. The floor of the stage has another similar contiguous triangle, in blood red, which leads to a concealed door. The Count for the most part stands aloof on a small platform… a ghostly figure.

Set in 1914 in a desolate region of the Carpathian mountains, the Countess lives with the Scottish governess in her castle. Her father, Count Dracula, was assassinated in 1905 by an Orthodox priest. Although dead, Count Dracula plays a prominent role posthumously. Into this unsettling environment the young English soldier, Hero, unwittingly cycles. His world is more akin to the Home Counties and a nice cup of tea. One of the delights of the production is the means by which the bicycle, which is static, is moved. After a while Hero encounters a group of peasants who bring him, in all his virgin innocence, to the castle and the young Countess.  She is no innocent as she needs to keep alive her family’s unique obsession.

There is a vitality throughout the entire production intensified by the combination of the youth of the cast and the corresponding youth of the creative production team from Lir.  With the substantial number of theatrical effects utilised, they all add to the sense of excitement and expectation which the piece generates. It is to be hoped that it has further productions, perhaps as part of the Bram Stoker Festival.  It is a fine addition to the Dracula canon.

Composer: Siobhán Cleary
Libretto by: Katy Hayes
Director: Conor Hanratty
Conductor: Andrew Synnott



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