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Nosferatu *


Nosferatu *

By Grzegorz Jarzyna

Directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna

Cast includes: Wolfgang Michael, Sandra Korzeniak, Katazyna Warnke

Venue: Barbican

31 October – 3 November 2012

Running time: 110 minutes (no interval)

Photo by Marta Orlik-Gaillard

Review by George Potts

I had high hopes upon entering the Barbican Centre on the night of Halloween to watch Nosferatu. As one walked in there were events aplenty: performance spaces set up in various corridors, pop-up art exhibitions in the foyer and hundreds of visitors dressed in their ghoulish costumes. The main event of the evening was to be the play itself: a Polish production inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu promised to be a frightening and fascinating production. Unfortunately, the play is a major disappointment which leaves its audience bored and confused rather than scared.

The play is written entirely in Polish, with English surtitles to aid the majority of the Barbican’s audience. In theory this should work but the surtitles themselves are unreliable and patchy, frequently appearing some time after the characters have spoken, sometimes not appearing at all in a scene. Occasionally Nosferatu gets away with this but when dialogue is taking place it becomes increasingly difficult to work out who is speaking what when these delays occur. Not that the play’s dialogue is fast-paced: Nosferatu proceeds at a snail’s pace, with frequent digressions into odd topics such as the nature of time and atomic particles. Perhaps this is an attempt to register some sort of intellectual profundity, but these sections succeed only in further hurting an already laborious production.

To give Nosferatu its credit, the stage is beautifully set, a minimalist space which utilises long shadows and tall windows blazing with white light. As the production starts this creates a distinct atmosphere and tension, but as the characters begin to speak said atmosphere quickly descends into tedium.

Not only is the dialogue laboriously slow, the plot is banal and the characters difficult to distinguish: the basic plot of Dracula is present, and audience members would do well to frequent themselves intimately with Stoker’s novel in order to have any idea of what is going on.  The character of Nosferatu (Wolfgang Michael) vampirically preys upon Mina Harker (Katarzyna Warnke), while Doctor John Seward (Jan Englert) and Abraham Van Helsing (Jan Frycz) try to work out what is going on and thwart the Count.

Despite vampire sagas being very much the current media zeitgeist (think True Blood and Twilight) this production strips the genre of any semblance of horror. It offers instead occasional moments of eroticism but even these are not enough to keep the spectator’s interest from waning. At just under two hours’ in length with no interval, a play with so little action and so much confusion becomes utterly mind-numbing by its end. At Nosferatu’s end, an audience-member in front of me simply announced: ‘I’ve lost the will to live’. It is rare that I find myself agreeing so whole-heartedly with such a hyperbolic statement.

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