BATS (British American Theatrical Society) has been bringing a wide variety of stage productions to English speaking audiences in Antwerp for over 60 years now. They have their own theatre (the “Little Theatre”) at Paardenmarkt 111 and recently I attended their production of Dracula. Here’s the review I wrote for them, and if that makes you think you should get tickets for their next show in January, then continue reading for all the info and links you need ….
A BLOODY GOOD NIGHT AT THE LITTLE THEATRE
“Dracula” by Stephen Dietz, performed by BATS vzw, at The Little Theatre, Paardenmarkt
Kids love Hallowe’en but for grown-ups, October and November can be a bit of a bleak time as the days get darker, yet Christmas cheer still seems a long way off.
This year, BATS production of Dracula (Dir: Robert Meyvisch) was -literally -just the ticket for anybody who shares my feelings of autumnal glumness. And it was most certainly not for children. I went to see it on Hallowe’en night and it was sold out, so I was pleased to have booked my seat.
I wasn’t familiar with this play version of the story by Stephen Dietz. Naturally as an English undergraduate, I’d read the novel, and also The Liz Lochhead play version, both of which I love.
BATS Little Theatre is a very small venue for a very big story, so the staging had to be cleverly done with characters frequently positioned on stage performing lines that also had a semi-narratorial function -for example, Jonathon’s accounts of his time at Dracula castle v. his fiancee’s experience back at home, at the point where she receives his letter. This really worked, and the feeling of the various settings -and the distance between them -was very successfully conveyed.
Visually this production was very pleasing and stylish -again, this is an achievement in a smaller venue. The use of the bed as a central focus for much of the action was simple yet effective, emphasising -with its changing colour schemes of black/ red and black/ white – its association with illness, sex and death.
The combination of the traditional and the contemporary was spot on: the traditional elements were all there in the form of its Victorian feel, the madness, the inclusion of all the Vampire lore we would expect (plenty of garlic and unwitting invites to cross the threshold) and a satisfying quantity of blood, vampire-induced agonies and horrid red mouths. I delighted in the creepy hand shadow effect -a nod to traditional horror movies (especially Nosferatu, 1922). The more modern edge was provided by the costumes which I loved -these all had a steam-punk element: a carefully placed accessory on a boot or hat made all the difference.
The enthusiasm, imagination and commitment of the cast to be faithful to the story was evident -it sometimes had the feel of a murderous pantomime because the story and characters are ones which as adults we feel as familiar with as children do about Cinderella or Peter Pan -but it was steam-punk, blood-bespattered panto for sure. For the grown-ups. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that BATS will consider doing something similarly macabre every Hallowe’en.
♦ ♦ ♦
AND NEXT …
Every year BATS stages a pantomime. If, like me you grew up with panto as an essential part of your childhood around Christmas and new year, you will be pleased to know that BATS delivers the traditional pantomime stories, in the traditional way, with plenty of corny jokes, songs, a Dame and lots of audience participation. If it’s not part of your childhood, well, I am willing to bet your kids will love it. This year’s production is the story of Aladdin, and will be shown at Theater ‘t Eilandje. You can order your tickets HERE, for one of three performances in January 2018.
This is just a taster of what BATS is all about. If you would like to find out more, you can go along to one of their Open Evenings, which will resume next year: the first is the Spring Open Evening on Saturday, 17th of March 2018.
Images courtesy of BATS VZW
(except program image which is from @nessascityblog insta)
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