‘Dracula’ review: Mark Gatiss stars in Big Finish’s new audio adaptation

Adapting an iconic title such as Dracula needs particular care to balance putting a new stamp on the story, whilst respecting the pedigree of a classic tale.

In the hands of Big Finish, this audio adaptation is a powerful listen and nothing has been lost in Jonathan Barnes’ take on Bram Stoker’s original.

As the extras explain, Barnes made some key decisions that set out his vision. First was to retain many of the characters, including some often dropped in other versions. He also put the character of Mina Murray (Deirde Mullins) centre stage, a move that works very well.

The story follows the familiar trail across its three discs, with Jonathan Harker (Joseph Kloska) summoned to Transylvania to meet the infamous Count Dracula (Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss). He falls foul of the Count and his coterie of female vampires and is left behind as the Count moves to England to prey on all and sundry, including many of those close to Jonathan.

Meanwhile, a patient in the asylum where Dr John Seward’s (Rupert Young) works is getting visions from his Master, a devilish figure with red eyes. This patient is Renfield (Ian Hallard).

Mina Murray is Jonathan’s fiancée, but it is her friend Lucy Westnra (Rosanna Miles) who feeds the Count as she fades away, much to the sorrow and anger of her three suitors Dr John Seward, Arthur Holmwood (Alex Jordan) and Quincy P Morris (David Menkin). If this ensemble weren’t sufficient for any story, the cast is increased by John Seward’s mentor, Professor Abraham van Helsing (Nigel Betts).

With all the pieces in place the action moves through Whitby to London and back to Transylvania. There are deaths, visions, blood-suckings, stakes and every other piece now so firmly associated with the story of Dracula. And there is Dracula himself, played with an ageless arrogance by Gatiss and with surprisingly few scenes. This doesn’t stop his presence looming large across everything.

This is suitably dark and authentic, yet updated enough to make some of Mina’s dialogue feel quite modern in places. The music and sound provides a Gothic ambience, with Scott Handcock’s direction bringing everything together and the overall effect is to bring the full horror of events to the foreground as the heroes struggle to defeat the ancient evil.

Any student of the text would do worse than treat themselves to a copy of this version of the 119-year-old epic.

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Released on Thurday 26 May 2016 by Big Finish Productions Ltd.

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