Cast : Will Bryant, Gareth Cooper, Katrina Gibson, Paul Kevin-Taylor, Rachel Winters
Directed by Eliot Giuralarocca
Produced by Adrian McDougall
Stage Adaptation - John Ginman
Composer - Ron McAllister
Musical Director - Ellie Verkerk
Designer - Victoria Spearing
Lighting Design - Charlotte McClelland
Costume Design - Jenny Little
Education Advisor - Danielle Corbishley
CSM - Stephen Harrison
The Production toured for six months, playing 106 performances, in 59 theatres across the UK, to an audience of 15,000.
Director's Programme note
First published in 1897, Bram Stoker's novel has never been out of print and has well and truly sunk it's teeth into popular culture spawning over 200 film adaptation, countless TV series, plays, musicals, dance shows, video games, cartoons, comics, anime and manga and the influence of Dracula can be seen everywhere, from teaching children to 'Count' in Sesame Street to appearing on breakfast cereal called Count Chocula! Transylvania has become synonymous with Vampires much to the annoyance of the people that live there and a study in the USA estimated that the recent boom in Vampire related entertainment spearheaded by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood was worth up to 10 billion pounds a year to their economy. The question, of course is why does this 400 page novel written 116 years ago still hold such a lasting fascination for us?
Dracula can be read on many different levels. Stoker had a lot to say about some of the important political and cultural themes of the day, the changing role of women in Victorian culture, sexual mores and conventions, immigration and a post colonial fear of the unknown. But underpinning all of this is the fact that he presents us with a simple archetypal story about young people striving to overcome a monster and to restore balance to the world they know. It's an exciting, dark story, full of twists and turns and we love a good story.
I've tried to find a performance style that serves our story of Dracula with integrity and also celebrates and relishes the theatricality of storytelling itself. Stories remind us of childhood. They help to tell us who we are and shape how we see the world. They link us to other people. Bedtime stories, stories that our Grandparents told us, true stories, made up stories, stories heard down the pub. There are a myriad different ways to tell a story but I'm sure we all have a 'once upon a time' memory of a beautiful story that made us cry or a funny story that make us laugh or a scary story that made us hide behind the sofa or go to sleep with the lights on. Long before humans could read there were folk tales, stories that were spoken, passed on, handed down from father to son and mother to daughter, from one generation to the next. They influence the way we think and feel about our own lives. We pay good money to be told stories; we buy novels, we watch TV, we flock to the Cinema to see films and we go to the theatre. There's something hard wired in our DNA that makes us crave stories, perhaps because they are windows that enable us to see how other people live, how they react in different situations and maybe in turn help us to imagine how we would feel and what we would do. Shakespeare said in Hamlet that the purpose of a play was to 'hold as 'twere a mirror up to nature'. Dracula famously has no reflection, but I hope that maybe you might catch a glimpse of your own.
Creating a piece of theatre never happens in isolation and I have had the great good fortune to work with some wonderfully creative collaborators. My thanks to John Ginman whose muscular, taut adaptation manages to be faithful to the spirit of novel yet full of theatrical inventiveness, Ron McAllister for the beautiful and haunting music that Ellie Verkerk helped bring to life with such skill in the rehearsal room, Victoria Spearing and Jenny Lethbridge for their gorgeous set and costume designs, Charlotte McClelland for lighting everything with such care and Julian Hirst whose expertise was so valuable. And of course, huge thanks to Blackeyed Theatre for giving me the opportunity to work with five wonderful performers who have made creating this show such a pleasure and who have thrown themselves into a whirlwind of acting, singing, dancing, and playing with such commitment, passion and generosity of spirit.
The final person to thank is of course you the audience. Unlike film and TV, theatre is a shared, communal experience, happening in real time, live in front of you as you watch. So thank you for coming, switch of your mobile phones, relax and forget about everything else for the next couple of hours because we'd like to tell you a story. I really hope you enjoy it.
A frighteningly credible supernatural aura.
The Stage *****
A thrilling, fast moving show that breathes new life into the classic gothic horror story...unique, immersive and totally mesmerising.
The Public Review *****
Quality story-telling laced with originality...a wickedly innovative and entertaining triumph.
Reading Post ****
Ingeniously presented..some genuinely chilling moments, including one particularly spectacular illusion that brought first gasps of disbelief, then a spontaneous burst of applause.
The Good Review ****
One of the most innovative and gripping theatre performances I've seen.
The Thread *****
With great clarity and theatrical ingenuity, it's cast of five doubling and trebling to strong effect, as the productions atmosphere by turn grips and begins to taut...a production that really should be seen.
Whats On Stage ****
I left the theatre mightily impressed...spinechillingly spooktacular!
Extremely inventive...Director Eliot Giuralarocca uses every trick in the theatrical book to take us from London across Europe to Transylvania and back via Whitby to London!
Whats On Stage
The text gave talented Director Eliot Giuralarocca a beautiful canvas on which to paint his work...this is great theatre, igniting imaginations...Bloody marvellous!
Eliot Giuralarocca brings so many clever touches to this production..a fast moving drama, admirably true to the spirit and style of the original.
Sheer bleedin' brilliance....Bold, vibrant, riveting entertainment.
Gripping...stunning...the sheer theatricality was a joy to watch...completely immersive...The powerful play of light and depth created a chilling ending that leaves an indelible mark.
A remarkable evening that..ended with a standing ovation.
The Supernatural Tales
A mesmerising piece of theatre.
Charged with eroticism, profound terror, pathos and humour.
The Latest ****
Dracula had me on the edge of my seat.
Video curtesty of Blackeyed Theatre
What was it that enticed you to take on Dracula?
When Blackeyed Theatre asked if I would be interested in directing Dracula I was thrilled and daunted in equal measure! There is a certain pressure that comes with taking on something so iconic. Say the name to anyone and you'll probably conjure up a whole host of images in their minds along with a huge raft of expectations. Everyone has his or her own idea of what Dracula should look like, what it's about and so on, so I knew it would be a challenge. But I like a challenge, and putting a Victorian novel stretching to 500 pages on stage with a cast of 5 actors is certainly that!
I'd worked with Blackeyed Theatre before as an actor, playing the title role in their production of 'The Beekeeper' so knew and shared the company's ethos of creating dynamic theatre using actors and musicians to tell stories with integrity and passion. And when I read John Ginman's muscular new adaptation, which was both faithful to the novel yet theatrically inventive and did such a great job of distilling the book into such a dramatic, theatrical and gripping story, I knew I had to do it.
What do you perceive to be the main tasks and challenges with directing this adaptation?
I was very keen to create a real ensemble piece with a bold 'actor led' performance style, with the actors on stage all the time and no recorded sound. The beauty and excitement of theatre is that it is live, it's what makes it different from film and TV, and it’s happening right there in front of you as you watch.
There are practical challenges with this approach. We have a cast of 5 to tell the story so they'll all be acting, singing, playing different instruments, changing costumes and playing multiple roles so I'm sure they'll be times when it will feel like directing traffic in Piccadilly Circus! Our Dracula is doubled with Van Helsing, which will be an interesting challenge as the play develops!
But making a storytelling piece and sharing the story of Dracula with an audience in this way, will I hope allow us to be imaginative about how we take on some of the supernatural challenges the script throws at us! Stakes through hearts, beheadings, travelling in carriages, turning into bats or wolves, creating storms. Exactly how we do this and what theatrical conventions we'll use will of course be a big challenge and one that will only reveal itself in the rehearsal room.
I'm a great believer that theatre is often most potent when it is most simple and I think one of my main tasks will be to try and find the simplest, most economical but theatrically inventive way to tell the story and to try and create a dynamic environment in which the actors can really play, discover, create and ultimately take ownership of the material themselves.
What are you hoping to achieve in terms of style?
Dracula was first published in 1897, the same year that the Theatre du Grand Guignol opened in Paris, which became famous for naturalistic often amoral, horror shows. A year before that, the Lumiere brothers were screening their first Cinematheque moving pictures which paved the way for the silent movie boom to come and Kodak cameras were seen as cutting edge new 'boys toys'. Music hall was also hugely popular in Victorian London as were Magic Lantern shows and Tableaux vivants (living pictures), which were often used as a form of erotic entertainment. I'm hoping to draw from a widerange of entertainment and eclectic performance styles that were emerging at the turn of the Century to tell our story of Dracula and try to connect to the period in which Bram Stoker was writing.
How did you go about creating a vision for the set and costumes?
As a director you have an idea of the kind of show you'd like to create and this develops through the rehearsal process. However, some decisions about the set and costumes have to be made in
advance of the rehearsal period as they take time to build/make. I wanted there to be a sort of visual clash between costumes and set, colourful, sophisticated Victorian costumes thrown into sharp relief but a harsh, monochrome, metallic, industrial looking set. I wanted to create the idea that these young people had been thrown into a world that had no experience of. As well as representing the cold world of Dracula I hope the set also offers us a clean uncluttered space in which to tell the story.
What can the audience expect from this production?
Thrills, spills and excitement! During the casting process I was really keen to find fearless performers who would relish throwing themselves into telling this story in a bold and theatrical way and we have a fabulously talented, creative cast of 5 performers who act, sing and play instruments and I'm sure they'll keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Perhaps people will come to the production with the expectation of seeing Vampire bats, fangs and lashings of blood or maybe their expectations will have been influenced by Bella Lugosi in a long black cape or a whole legion of gothic horror films and TV adaptations that have helped shape the image of Dracula in popular imagination.
While of course all these elements are there, people that aren't familiar with Bram Stoker's novel may be surprised at what a rich story it is; at it's heart, it’s a timeless story about the struggle for survival, a battle between the known and the unknown, between good and evil or as one of the characters, Dr Seward says simply, 'a stand up fight with death'. The novel exposes the Victorian fear that modern man with all its scientific advancements and sophistication could very easily be returned to a brutal basic primitive state lurking below the surface. It is also a story of young people forced to respond to events for which no education or upbringing could have prepared them. If audiences leave the theatre saying wow that was a great story, brilliantly told I'll be a very happy man!
Video curtesy of Blackeyed Theatre/Livelywood Pictures
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