Vikram and the Vampire is the first offering by Zen Zen Zo’s new artistic director’s Michael Futcher and Helen Howard. Formerly known as The King and the Corpse, this work has evolved from the duo’s 1995 production which was originally adapted from ancient Hindu tales from India.
The overall arc of the story is about a proud and arrogant King Vikram who makes a pact with the evil sorcerer, Shantil, to retrieve a corpse from a tree in the burial ground in return for power over the world. However, a mischievous vampire inhabits the corpse and tries to distract Vikram with stories, which come to life before their eyes.
The tales were enchanting, tragic, and even comical interludes, with the purpose of not only distracting Vikram form sacrificing Vetal to Shantil at the end of the journey, but along the way, teaching the King humility, wisdom and a higher regard for women.
Sandro Colarelli with his strength of presence gave an ease to portraying King Vikram. One of his cameo characters where he gets in touch with his feminine side was a delight to watch.
Lizzie Ballinger’s athletic stamina to sustain such a large, exhaustingly talkative role as Vetal the vampire, is to be commended. Her sustained energy and conviction never missed a beat.
Bryan Probets as a whole gamut of characters was impressive as always, and another obvious choice for the physical theatre company. Especially amusing was Probets and Liz Buchannan’s bird incarnations. Their vitality and comic timing was ‘im-peckable’ (get it ?!)
Other members of the ensemble included Lauren Jackson, Alex Forero, Chris Beckey, Yenenesh Nigusse, Jamie Kendall, Amber-Jade Salas, James Raggatt, Mel Budd, and Helen Howard. The ensemble was an intrinsic part of the story telling process, taking on many different roles including scenery, and supporting the transformation from the buriel ground into each story.
Even though the set scenery was relatively minimalist, walking into studio 3 at The Old Museum was a visual delight, with the entire stage right lined up with exotic Eastern instruments, a platform in the centre, and the left side housing one large dead tree. Complemented by Ben Hughes’ lighting, the set gave enough clues to bate us for the intrigue to come.
The continual eastern music played by Cieavash Arean, Guy Webster and Ravi Singh on a combination of instruments was a beautiful soundscape to the piece.
The only criticism is that the show with no interval, seemed a little long. Some additional prudent editing or even cutting a story entirely would not have changed the audience’s experience of the whole piece.
Vikram and the Vampire is an important artistic work with Zen Zen Zo bringing these ancient Hindu tales to a Western audience and should be seen as part of our cultural education.