Dracula is a literary classic – a story engrained in our national psyche. Any mention of the count’s name brings to mind images of blooded fangs, cloak, bats and a crumbling castle on a Transylvanian crag.

Anyone attempting to bring Bram Stoker’s creation to the stage is thus faced with a vampire-shaped problem. We are so well-acquainted with the story that it could all get a little predictable. And then there’s the problem of the count himself. With the role already owned by the likes of Bela Lugosi, Max Schreck and Christopher Lee, any portrayal could come across as hammy; more schlock than shock.

In taking on Dracula, Oxford’s Creation Theatre Company is as brave as the stake-wielding vampire slayer Van Helsing. But has it bitten off more than it can chew?

The answer is emphatically no. The production of Kate Kerrow’s wonderful adaptation, being staged at Blackwell’s Bookshop until April 14, is a masterpiece which artfully sidesteps the pitfalls which could swallow up less accomplished companies.

While faithful to the spirit of Stoker’s gothic classic, the production, deftly directed by Helen Tennison, makes no attempt to replicate it, re-telling the story through its principal character, the solicitor Jonathan Harker (Christopher York) and his new wife Mina (Sophie Greenham). The action is updated to the 1950s, to fit in with the mid-century styling of the venue, the bookshop’s Norrington Room.

And, here’s the biggie: there is no Dracula. Well, not in person anyway: the count looms large through superlative use of video projection and sound, but we never see him. Which makes him even more sinister.

We find the couple in Whitby going through the possessions left by Mina’s friend Lucy who has died in mysterious circumstances. Jonathan is also sick after a visit to Transylvania. The pair are in love but painfully repressed. Is the vampire to blame, could he be the cure, or did he even exist?

As they relive incidents which led to Lucy’s demise we are led into a maelstrom of lost innocence, temptation, madness and horror – bombarded with powerful images projected on the simple set and the very books themselves – volumes, appropriately of philosophy and theology – and accompanied by haunting music, white noise and the invisible presence of the count.

It is sensuous, unsettling, humorous in parts and technically brilliant with expert stagecraft. It is absorbing to the point of hypnotic. There is a little gore; most of the frights are unseen.

This is a very grown-up Dracula for our times with a strong female lead. A hugely enjoyable show and a towering achievement for Creation. 5/5

Dracula is at Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford until April 14. Book at creationtheatre.co.uk