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Falcons Tackle Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula might be the raw material of horror movies - but in the hands of Michael Bogdanov and Phil Woods it is the raw material of farce.

And last night Loughborough's Falcon Players exploited their 1975 spoof to the full at the Stanford Hall Theatre, near Loughborough.

Producers Bill Pritchard and Lawrence Holmes were determined the audience will join in and, in a specially written first scene, hunter for a substitute Dracula among the auditorium. This provides the link for Mr. Holmes (Dracula) to take the stage and we are off.

Dracula is rich in character - but short on plot - and to compensate, the players exploit the characters to the full.

Stuart Bailey played Van Helsing as a cross between Groucho Marx and Dr. Strangelove and his scenes in the company of Dr. Seward (Dennis Hull) and Jonathan Harker (Christopher Marlow) worked best of all.

Dracula is a new type of venture for the Falcon Players, which required careful preparation and worked well.

Murray Hartley
Leicester Mercury

Dracula in a comic vein

THE Falcon Players surpassed themselves last week with a highly comic stage version of Bram Stoker's gothic nightmare ''Dracula'', adapted as a pain in the nect by Phil Woods helpde by Michael Bogdanov.

Action began in the foyer with bats galore and compulsort garlic foot-batch. The Players had added extra material, mixing with the pre-opening audience as the Lord of Stanford, his family and houseguests welcoming us, his friends, to an evening of 'charades' on stage. A search audience-wide for a replacement title-role player turned up Bela Lugosi's dead ringer - the Hon Lawrence Holmes got up to kill - and we were off.

The story stuck to the Hammer horror theme, opening as the king of the undead makes tracks for England where full-bloodied folk await his pleasure. Lord Christopher Marlow, stiff-upper-lipping it as Jonathan Harker, books Dracula into digs at Whitby with hot and cold running spooks and access to the local looney bin next door. Dracula dispatches his manic henchman Clov to sort out our two potential vamipresses who live with the asylum shrink. Dr Seward.

From there on in supernature takes its course, wooden stakes become dedegeur for stayabeds and vampire-hunter Prof Van Helsing puts himself in charge of proceedings.

The show was a hit from the start - a late Victorian soiree with gothic chills and strong overtones of pantomime starting with a singalong (Dracula sung to the tune of Joshua) which raised the roof and any coffin lids left unsecured. Inventive use was made of the auditorium, in fact frequently there were more players out front than there were on stage! A song sheet - "Men of Garlic" set to the traditional Welsh tune - added to the great audience participation as did the gingerbread crosses, on sale at the interval and later used to good effect in dispensing with drac who disappeared, the devil knows where, in a puff of magenta smoke at the final curtain.

Sir Stuart Bailey's creaking Van Helsing did for the German accent what Sellers's Clousseau did for French and Dr Denis Hull brought a breath of North Yorks to the hooked-on-brass Doctor Seward. His Lordship's butler, Hague, pinching copy from Benny Hill, Norman Wisdom, Dick Emery et al, kept the pace fizzing like a spumante transfusion while Mrs Bridge's daughter, the maid Rebecca, ran true to form, discarding her outer clothing to appear in the flesh as Nurse Goodthighs. Dame Susan Webster lost her head completely as Lucy, Lady Jane Thomas bit well into Mina's role and young Squire Griffiths filled in the spaces as Gregory.

His Excellency Bill Pritchard and the Hon Lawrence Holmes (funeral directors) were totally responsible for the entertainments which had excellent attention to detail throughout. Full marks to props, effects and programme and to Prof David Newitt our resident organist who kept the score and encouraged the party atmosphere no end.



MINCEMEAT and silver balls are already on sale in the big shops, and if we needed any further proof that the festive season will soon be upon us, the Falcon Players showed us that they are dreaming of a Black Christmas with their production of Dracula at Stanford Hall last week.

It was Out for the Count as the audience learned to hiss the villain and eventually sing-along with that glorious relic of pantomime, the song-sheet dropping from the bats - sorry - flies.

With a spade being weilded (thankfully hidden by the sided of the coffin) followed by the traditional stake and mallet through the heart, this was certainly not a show for the squeamish. A severed hand, a severed booted leg, and finally, a very bloody severed head held aloft might well have caused heart attacks on pensioners' night.

This spook on the old theme was devised by Phil Woods and Michael Bogdanov (of Leicester Phoenix Theatre fame) and certainly made for a show with a difference from the usual Falcon farces. I'm happy to report that the Players didn't ditch their usual image completely: Nurse Goodthighs saved their reputation with her white stockings and suspenders.

Much chasing up and down the aisles meant audience participation in this gig - a ploy which received a mixed reception from those who thought they had only come to watch. They need not have worried, the actors assured us that garlic had been liberally sprinkled around the theatre for our safety. The astute Players also sold gingerbread crosses in the interval, and those which hadn't been nibbled completely away were held aloft to ward off the evil emanating from Dr. A. Cula.

Certainly the youngsters lapped up the blood and gore and entered into the spirit of the evening. Particularly I liked the way the head which had been chopped off was returned to its owner, presumably with a mixture of blood and superglue so that the lady could take her bow - although I did feat that the ingenious company might have devised a method whereby it would fall off and roll down to the front row of the stalls.

Count Dracula (otherwise Lawrence Holmes) and Bill Pritchard nipped over from Transylvannia to organise this romp and were ably supported by the gutteral Dutchman Van Helsing (Stuart Bailey) and also by Chris Marlow, Keith Hague, Denis Hull, Susan Webster, Jane Thomas, Gregory Griffiths and Rebecca Bridges.

And, to show that no one is safe from the cluches of the King of the Undead, the children from Lodge Farm School were inveigled into providing der fleidermaus in der foyer.

Loughborough Echo



The Falcon Players of Loughborough have started their Theatre season off in grand style with a robust presentation of "Dracula" at Stanford Hall.

This version of the famous Bram Stoker tale by Phil Woods and Michael Bogdanov goes for laughs as well as thrills, with both verbal and visual jokes in plenty.

Producers Bill Pritchard and Lawrence Holmes fill out the skeletal plot with some full-blooded business, skilfully handled by the cast. Christopher Marlow, Stuart Bailey, Denis Hull, Susan Webster, Jane Thomas, Lawrence Holmes, Gregory Griffiths and Rebecca Bridges all have their moments but the hilarious hit of the evening is undoubtedly Keith Hague.

The show continues each evening until Saturday.

Nottinghamshire Evening Post