Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

A wordless adaptation of horror classic Dracula, this stunning piece of physical theatre brings Bram Stoker’s novel to life through impeccable use of lighting, music and dance. From the moment the audience are ushered into the small theatre, it’s apparent we’re in for a hair-raising and skin-tingling experience. An ominous rumble is the entrance soundtrack, while onstage the characters of Jonathan and Mina Harker sit shivering like leaves under unnaturally white lights.

As the illumination on the audience dims and the play begins, the lighting and music switch abruptly to create a more homely and comfortable atmosphere. Jonathan (Simon Panayi) and Mina (Stephanie Newell) shake off their shivers and share an emotional farewell as he departs on his ill-fated quest to Transylvania. Such an effective technique is instrumental in crafting the atmospheric quality to the production and will be used throughout, especially in the next scene when the stage is engulfed in darkness and lit only by Jonathan’s lantern. It’s here that we’re introduced to the title character (Mark McCredie) and his bride (Laura Baillie), who flit around feverishly in the gloom with unsettling panache.

Rather than attempt to condense the entire novel into a 50-minute piece, the cast have cleverly opted to focus merely on Dracula’s seduction of the hapless couple and their playful friend Lucy (Alice Saxton), which probably comprises the most compelling chapters of the book in any case. As such, the narrative flows as effortlessly as the well-planned choreography and the story progresses without being impeded by the absence of speech, although the finale might seem a little rushed to some.

McCredie is perfectly cast in the lead role, with his angular features and the floating fluidity of his movements contributing an otherworldly quality to the Prince of Darkness. The choreography (both in the seduction and fight sequences) is polished and impressive, while every single one of the five-strong cast acquits themselves admirably. It’s a testament to their abilities that they manage to communicate such depths of feeling and such undercurrents of eeriness without uttering a single word for the duration of the play.

For a mesmerising and dreamlike adaptation of the famous novel which strays into new territory by dispensing with dialogue, Push to Shove’s production is essential viewing for fans of Stoker, fans of physical theatre or fans of the Fringe in general.