“Dracula as presented here is a fetid, creepy delight.”
With so many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel Dracula being released over the years, choosing one to read, watch or listen to can be a difficult choice. This Is Horror’s Simon Kurt Unsworth checks out just one of those adaptations as he looks back at the 2012 full cast audio version created for Audible.
Usually, when reviewing audio books, the review has to cover two distinct elements: a review of the text and narrative, and a review of its delivery and presentation as an audio work. With Dracula, however, a review of the text and narrative seems superfluous given how much has already been written and spoken about Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic. It’s worth mentioning, though, for those that maybe haven’t read the original novel before coming to this audio, that Stoker’s tale is surprisingly slow and light on action and very heavy on dialogue, that some of the characterisations (particularly how the men relate to the women) are weak and that what was almost certainly one of Stoker’s great strengths at the time of publication, his modernity (this is a novel of cutting edge blood transfusions, or railway timetables and modern transport, of telegraphs and businessmen and newspaper articles and zoos) dates portions of the text terribly when read in the twenty first century. That being said, there’s genuine tension and atmosphere in the novel, and its cosmopolitan many-continent stage gives the various characters chance to grow and shine and make for a real kinetic headlong rush of a book, and those experiencing the novel for the first time certainly won’t be disappointed. This brings us to the full-cast audio version, specially recorded for Amazon’s Audible arm and released in 2012.
The cast includes Alan Cumming as Dr Seward and Tim Curry as Van Helsing, although no one plays Dracula given that he only appears via other people’s recollections and recordings (Dracula is an epistolary novel). The multi-cast format works well as the various voices help distinguish the characters and stop the listener becoming too bored of a single voice (which is a danger with slower narratives). Cummings and Curry (who only speaks directly a few times in the novel and who is, therefore, little more than a cameo player in this production) are excellent, and the rest of the cast mostly acquit themselves well with the slight exception of Susan Duerden’s Lucy, who’s accent seems over-played and who comes across as entirely too drippy and irritating.
If there are problems with the approach that has been taken here in presenting Dracula it’s that, when characters recount what other characters have said, the actors have to decide whether to impersonate the other performers, and when they do it can be a little odd to listen to and can pull the listener out of the story. Most of the cast, sensibly then, don’t, or do it only slightly (particularly when telling what Van Helsing has said); Katy Kellgren’s Mina, however, goes for it and gives long speeches in almost everyone else’s voice at some point, and it’s to her credit that this grates as little as it actually does—although it does make you wonder how on earth Mina remembers so exactly what various characters said, especially the old sailor who sits in the churchyard and regales Mina and Lucy with various opinions, delivered in a frankly bizarre local accent.
Overall though, this full cast playing of Dracula makes for an exciting and dramatic presentation that, with a running time of around fifteen hours, is easily long enough to get properly lost in. Added to some good production work that features strong, clear sound and the depth added by its minimal sound effects, Stoker’s Dracula as presented here is a fetid, creepy delight that is well worth checking out.
Length: 15hrs 28 mins
Release Date: 2012
SIMON KURT UNSWORTH
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