Don’t let the sun come up on me: a review of Dracula in a Time of Climate Change

Vampires are hot right now, if you disagree, just see how much money Twilight made. Vampires can also be funny, Mel Brooks’ 1995 flick Dracula: Dead and Loving It is just one example.   Can Vampires also be socially aware and even activist?   The Blacklist Committee For Unsafe Theatre thinks so and to prove it, this Montreal-based collective brings you Dracula in a Time Of Climate Change.

Illustration by Dave Jones

Set both in polluted, vampire-ridden modern-day Translvania and in environmental activist circles in modern-day Montreal, the play follows Dracula (Scott Kettles) as he searches for pure vegan blood to drink and seeks out Mina (Sibel A), an activist organizer who, unbeknownst to his servant Renfield (Susanna Jones), reminds him of a past love.

The play delivers a mix of comedy in dramatic structure (almost like the setup of Shakespeare’s problem plays) and commentary on the lengths people will go to in order to support their causes and the state of activism in North America.   There are plenty of pop culture references, dance, some multimedia elements, musical numbers and even a bit of implied lesbian vampire action (by implied I mean in the dark).

The original script by Matt Jones is funny and fast-paced enough that you don’t really notice the roughly 90 minutes going by.   This is a play with a purpose, where the different elements make sense together.   It is also an evolving work, the current pop culture references being added are a prime example of that.   In fact, I saw a work-in-progress version of the same play with some of the same cast a few years back.   The full version is significantly different and improved.   In fact only one scene and some of the lines are the same.

Dracula (Scott Kettles) and Mina (Sibel A.) photo by Susanna Jones

The play is well cast and all actors give convincing performances and work well together.   Standouts include Kettles as a solid creepy/funny Drac, Jones as a bubbly and hilariously Igor-esque Renfield with some very expressive facial expressions and Cassandra Witteman as a very believable Lucy, Mina’s girlfriend caught in a love quadrangle or maybe a five-angle (if you can say that) with a bunch of vampires.

I remember someone named Lucy being the object of the count’s affections in the Bram Stoker version, but this ain’t Bram Stoker.   It’s 2009.   A time when the real vampires in the board rooms make your typical street-level bloodsuckers not seem all that bad. That’s the world that this play captures quite well.

Some might prefer if the play had focused more on the issues and a little less on the hoopla and the love stories.   However by using environmental degradation, the corporations that cause it and the resistance to such a situation as a background, it offers an entertaining story where all of the problems mentioned above are ever-present, just as they are in our daily lives.

Dracula in a Time of Climate Change has completed its Montreal run and is currently playing at the Glenn Morris Theatre (4 Glenn Morris Street just east of Spadina, 3 streets south of Bloor) in Toronto until July 11th.   Click here for showtimes and ticket info.

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