Translating fiction into dance is dangerous. Cliched set pieces, plots shorn of nuance, naff period-costumed duets: the regular dance-goer is wearily familiar with them all. But Mark Bruce's thrilling, atmospheric Dracula proves that it can be done. Bram Stoker's novel is highly physical; its narrative strands wind like shrouds around the bodies of its characters. Bruce retains the skeleton of Stoker's plot, but spins out the physical stories with bone-dry wit and florid sensuality. He also rescues the piece from absurdity – laughter is to the gothic as garlic is to the vampire – with a deft reversal of emphasis. His version is at heart a romance, which sees Dracula (Jonathan Goddard) and Lucy Westenra (Kristin McGuire) finally united in an eternity of perverse mutual desire.Mark Bruce CompanyDraculaTobacco Factory, BristolStarts 25 SeptemberUntil 28 SeptemberTouring to Exeter, Bournemouth, London, Oxford and Frome
Bruce sets up this denouement by painting his male, human cast as self-regarding and ineffectual. Jonathan Harker (Chris Tandy) idolises and infantilises Lucy, and Mina Harker's sexual appetite is evidently unstirred by her rich but smugly insensitive fiance (Alan Vincent). The men's Victorian posturing looks very pallid indeed when contrasted with the barely concealed ferocity of Goddard's Dracula, whom we encounter first in introspective mood, whirling fleet-footed and melancholy to Ligeti's Atmosphères.
There's a sense of rift, of a creature at once ecstatic at his power and appalled at what he has become. Later, Goddard performs a doleful soft-shoe shuffle to Down at the Old Bull and Bush (Bruce's musical choices are, as ever, nothing if not eclectic).
He and Bruce are playing with us, tricking us into empathy. We will soon see Goddard's sad gaze twist into demonic fury and his lyricism transformed to savagery. One of the best moments occurs when Dracula finds his vampire brides (danced with splendid, snarling lubriciousness by Hannah Kidd, Nicole Guarino and Cree Barnett Williams) bloodily toying with Harker. One moment, Goddard is a creeping shadow, with vestiges of the man he once was clearly evident in his body language. The next, he is the Beast, feral and pitiless.
Dracula could have gone so wrong, but it's by far the best thing that Bruce has ever done – a real breakthrough work. And Goddard is nothing short of brilliant. The current UK tour takes in just six venues, none of them large, but I'd be surprised if I saw a more entertaining piece of dance theatre this year. Kill for a ticket.