The age old story of Dracula received a breath of new life with Drakul(j)a, a modern adaptation that brings the story into the setting of an asylum. The key players have been modified, the names changed, a few twists are added but the classic tale lives on for any true Bram Stoker fan. The story is also told entirely in German for a different, cultural twist – but for all the non-German speakers out there, don’t let this fact deter you.
I’ll get it out of the way here, I don’t speak German and neither does my boyfriend Bob, even though he is of half German descent. I knew this walking into the production but the chance to see Dracula’s story told again was far too tempting to overlook. Admittedly, I somehow got the impression that there may be super imposed titles for those non-German speakers like us but there were not. At first I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to follow along but then I reminded myself that I’ve loved this story for years and definitely enough to not get lost.
The production is presented by Theater Du which is comprised of students from the German department at the University of Toronto who are devoted to staging plays in the German language. Their version of Drakul(j)a was adapted by their own Erol Boran who replaced the Romanian castle backdrop with a German insane asylum deliberately blurring the lines between doctor and patient. This shifts the focus from the famed Drakulja (Yannick Muellenbach) to concentrate more on the rest of the cast.
Just like watching a foreign film, when you’re not confined to the comfort zone of understanding the dialogue, you’re forced to keep your attention drawn to the screen, the performances of the actors capture you more. This is what kept Bob and I riveted to the stage as it would be performance alone, emotional impact and commanding of the character that would keep our interest.
We weren’t sure who in the cast were native German speakers and who were learning the language but those more comfortable with the tongue allowed themselves to embody the characters much more. We were mutually captivated and entranced by the whimsical and enchanting performance of Tetyana Ivanina who played Luzinde (she would be Lucy in the Bram Stoker novel) and blown away by the powerful and commanding take on the original Professor Van Helsing now Professor Van Stalker portrayed by Alexandra Tsygankova (yes, a woman).
Drakul(j)a will only be showing this weekend but entrance is free with donations accepted. For a truly unique theatrical experience, whether you’re familiar with Deutschland’s mother tongue or not, make this production part of your evening.
– Drakul(j)a, produced by Theater Du, is playing at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place).
– Performances run:
Thu, March 29, at 7:30 pm
Fri, March 30, 7:30 pm
Sat, March 31, 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm
– Tickets are free but donations are accepted.
Photo of Alexandra Tsygankova and Yannick Muellenbach by Erol Boran.