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Friday, 25 November 2011

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Dracula: Sex, Sucking and Stardom, Hens & Chickens Theatre

On the surface, it is a familiar plotline: Dracula wants to take over the world with an army of un-dead. But there is an unexpected bonus: Dracula is also a frustrated guitar-wielding West End wannabe, pining for a role in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber hit show. This is 'Dracula: Sex, Sucking and Stardom', and it is not to be missed.

This one-act show is a barrage of laughs. A clever and fast-moving script, wonderful audience participation, great use of a small and inflexible space, and terrific comic timing make for a great evening in the Hen and Chickens Theatre. The show has been devised by the cast, and they must have had such fun creating the piece. Their on-stage energy and commitment is what gives the play its winning punch.

It is the second show from the theatre company 'Last Chance Saloon', set up by Sam Dunham and Jack Faires, who play Jonathan Harker and Count Dracula respectively. For this show they have added Simon Naylor, who plays Van Helsing, and what a brilliant decision it was to cast him in the role - it is clear from the start how much natural flair he has for comedy.

It is interesting that in the blurb for 'Last Chance Saloon', Charlie Chaplin is listed as one of their key influences. Slapstick comedy is an integral part of the show, and it is clear that the performers/writers rank visual comedy as highly as they do scripted comedy. An actor being slapped in the face, cross-dressing, or waking up in a compromising position is just as funny as some of the verbal gaffs in this show. The timing of these moments is impeccable.

Jack Faires' skilled guitar playing adds a crucial musical dimension, and a half-size electric keyboard serves as a useful and cleverly-utilised prop.

The plot is as ridiculous as you would wish it to be: the action moves across oceans in a matter of seconds, and the actors switch characters at extraordinary speed. The result could have been utter chaos, but instead the action is wonderfully slick.

The laughs keep coming: when Dracula is turned down by Andrew Lloyd Webber for being too camp, he is horrified to discover that John Barrowman has been cast instead.

An amazing line-up of comedians over the coming months is another tremendous reason to visit The Hen and Chickens Theatre in Islington.

Sex, Sucking and Stardom continues until 3 December, book here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Alex Knox.

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