Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 9th December, 2015
While Beauty and the Beast runs in the main house, in the Belgrade’s B2 studio an alternative version is presented for grown-ups, performed by a company of vampires. Nick Walker’s festive offering is an absolute hoot from start to finish – the audience is soon howling at the stage.
To begin with, there is audience participation: we have to invite the actors onto the stage because a vampire may never enter without an invitation. We meet Alan Alucard (Graeme Rose) an old-school Bela Lugosi figure, complete with cape and accent. He introduces us to Karen Peri-Menopausal (the mighty Katy Stephens) who is more open about her appetites, and to Vladimir Orlok (a toothsome Jack Trow) the handsome, younger vampire (just shy of his thousandth birthday). Making up the quartet is Denise (Miriam Grace Edwards) a Welsh, human actress, in fear of her cast mates. They are all extremely funny.
The offstage story mirrors (as much as vampires can mirror!) the onstage tale of a beast redeemed by love – if a human tear of sympathy lands on a vampire, they tell us, the vampire will become mortal again.
The jokes come as thick and fast as blood from a punctured jugular. Walker’s script is relentlessly funny: we laugh and groan in equal measure. The cast have as much fun as we do, with larger-than-life characterisations, hilarious shadow-play, and silliness in abundance. There is plenty for them to get their teeth into. It’s a delicious dollop of daftness that proves irresistible. I’ve been to Coventry enough times to appreciate the local references and in-jokes that pepper the dialogue, and I’ve always revelled in a good (or preferably, a bad) pun or two.
It’s crazy, knockabout stuff, witty and laugh-out-loud funny. I loved every bloody minute.