WA Ballet’s world premiere of ‘Dracula’ is an artistic triumph

Dracula | His Majesty’s Theatre | Until 22 September | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Creating an entire new work is a major undertaking for the West Australian Ballet, and with Dracula they’ve boldly ventured forth with a story which will reach out to a wide and potentially younger audience, while delivering a world class experience.

Acclaimed Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor has been brought in to create the new work. He delivers a form of neo-classical dance that seamlessly combines the traditions of classical ballet with modern contemporary dance. His style is perfect for this sensual and dark work.

The team of Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith, who work together to create the sets and costumes, have delivered some phenomenally stunning work. As each different set was revealed you could hear gasps of wonder across the opening night audience. Transylvanian castles, stately English homes and grime covered asylums are created with the stage given a great deal of depth.

The company’s Artistic Director Aurélien Scannella makes a return to the stage playing the older Dracula. On opening night he was joined by Mathhew Lehmann as the younger Dracula. The creative ways that the two switch places throughout the work was intriguing, sometime in a ‘blink and you’d miss it’ move they morphed from the white haired ageing count, to the revived younger version with long black tresses.

Oscar Valdes portrayed the young lawyer Jonathan Harker sent to negotiate a land sale with the ominous Dracula, while Carina Roberts was captivating as his love Elizabeth – who is identical to Dracula’s long lost wife Mina.

A highlight of the show was the performance from Jesse Homes who played the mentally disturbed Renfied. The sequence which introduces Renfield and the asylum at the start of the show’s second act was a perfect mix of comedy and presence.

Another highlight is when Harker begins to dance with Dracula, it’s a moment filled with power, lust and homoerotic overtones. When we reached the interval, this was the scene everyone was talking about – noting how rare it was to see two male dancers appearing close and strong and not overtly aggressive.

The work is set to music from Polish classical composer Wojciech Kilar, who scored Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Cleverly they use not only pieces from this work but several different compositions and scores that Kilar has created over his long career.

The West Australian Ballet have taken a bold step with Dracula and delivered a world class ballet that has to be seen.

Tickets to Dracula are on sale now.

Graeme Watson, image: Jon Green