Nosferatu (Malthouse Theatre) – theatre review

The play starts with a heartfelt warning from one of the characters that only tragedy puts you on the map. A plea to save ourselves as it is too late for her rings out. Hence begins the tale of an unremarkable mining town in Tasmania beset by evil. It is called Bluewater and after a chequered history it is struggling to survive.

The land has been poisoned and investors are desperately needed for the mine to have any hope of continuing. The job of finding them is left to Tom (Keegan Joyce) and Knock (Max Brown), the Mayor, who is attracted to the town’s doctor, Kate (Sophie Ross) But first Tom must metaphorically wrestle with his journalist girlfriend Ellen (Shamita Siva), so she doesn’t spill all the details of an environmental impact report. She reluctantly agrees to hold back before Tom takes off to pursue a promising investment lead in Sydney.

Photos by Pia Johnson

His trip to a remote mansion surrounded by woods and shrouded in fog is anything but straight forward. When he finally arrives, he is greeted past midnight by a pale looking confident man who calls himself the Count (Jacob Collins-Levy). A fortnight later Tom is awoken by a desperate call from his girlfriend, who has no idea what has become of him. Disoriented and clearly in the grip of something beyond his reckoning, Tom is still with Count Orlok, who he then invites back to Tasmania. After further drama en route, in quick time Orlok is putting the bite on many of Bluewater’s remaining residents.

Nosferatu is a modern take on Dracula, which dates back to the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker. That was turned into a silent German expressionist horror film, Nosferatu, in 1922. Playwright Keziah Warner, who admits he doesn’t know much about vampires, has clearly been sucked in, creating a dramatic, humorous and seductive piece.


Apart from the writing and acting (which I will get to momentarily), staging is everything. It is here that set and costume designer Romanie Harper has done remarkably well. She has created a sprawling set, the backdrop of which is ceiling to floor red curtaining, in front of which sits six doors. Also in the room is a heavy boardroom table and some chairs. Mood lighting by Paul Jackson and sound from Kelly Ryall does the rest.

It is fair to say that Nosferatu is atmospheric. It immediately drew me in and carries with it no shortage of laughs due to a surfeit of pithy one liners. Also, it is not without its surprises. Collins-Levy is excellent in his portrayal of the suave, controlling Count, never short of answers. He has a great sense of comic timing. I also appreciated the surety in Siva’s performance as the hip journo, driven by her instincts to probe further into just what is going down. Joyce readily steps into the role as Tom, a popular and flummoxed nerd caught way out of his depth. Ross brings practicality and suspicion to her persona as Dr Kate, while Brown is eager to please as Knock.

Nosferatu is nothing if not creative. It is certainly engaging and entertaining, although I felt it dragged a tad before reaching its climax. Ten or 15 minutes could readily have been shaved off once it was established what Count Orlok was up to in Bluewater. Still, the lion’s share of the piece, directed by Bridget Balodis, has spark and sizzle, and is bloody good fun. It is playing at Merlyn Theatre at Malthouse Theatre until 5th March, 2023.

Alex First

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