Since its publication in 1897 Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never been out of print and has proved an almost limitless well from which writers in virtually every sort of media have drawn inspiration to tell the tale of the titular count and his nefarious nocturnal goings-on.
The book itself was written from copious notes made by Stoker (which run to over a hundred pages) and the tantalising prospect that this entertaining evening posits, is that Stoker also kept a journal containing more research, which might not be as far of the mark as it at first sounds.
Stoker travelled extensively with, and for his employer the actor-manager Sir Henry Irving (indeed it has been suggested that, although married, Stoker’s dedication to, and relationship with, Irving might actually have been more than platonic, one observer noting that ‘Stoker’s friendship with Irving was ‘the most important love relationship of his adult life.’’), and indeed the typed manuscript of Dracula, thought lost for nearly a century, was rediscovered in a trunk in an American barn in the 1980’s.
However, I digress… The story Gaddas tells is all brought about following the discovery of a journal in Stoker’s own hand that echoes the preface in a 1901 edition of Dracula; namely that the events of the book are indeed true, but that for obvious reasons he had changed the names of the people and places concerned. It is a clear warning of what lurks in the shadows…
From there he recounts the story of how he became involved, as a jobbing actor, with fronting a rather sensationalist television programme where, along with the team of Adisolu the director, ‘silent’ Eric (the cameraman who never stopped talking), Ron (Harriet Potter), and others, he retraces the journey made by Jonathan Harker to the count’s castle in the Carpathian mountains, and goes on to tell of his growing obsession with the journal, and all things vampire.
This is Gaddas’s own work, and as a one-man show it hangs together very well, though I have a couple of reservations – more of which later – though at times I certainly did find myself being drawn into the narrative, especially when it dwelt on his own personal experiences as part of the storytelling. Having visited Highgate Cemetery on several occasions – but never, alas, finding the family tomb of the Westenra’s – the point in the story where he treads the famous obsidian paths in search of the un-dead is both believable and well executed, due in no short order to the illusion and lighting effects from John Bulleid, and Matt Karmios respectively.
Although a one man show the atmosphere is also nicely reinforced by a subtle, though accomplished score from composer Jeremy Swift.
In fact the whole evening hangs together very well, but might be more scary on a cold winter night rather than after a sunny day in leafy Richmond.
However, I said I has a couple of reservations and I do. The first is one for Gaddas and director Minnithorpe. Although Gaddas has an admirable command of the space, and a couple of the characters are instantly recognisable – there’s a nicely realised sea captain – I think he could afford to let himself go a bit more; make his female characters far more female, and his male characters more distinct. There were a couple of points in the evening where I was a bit lost as to who I was hearing. Was it Gaddas as narrator? or one of the characters from the book?
The other reservation? The last ten seconds of Act Two… Is it scary? No. It made me laugh. Other than that, a very enjoyable evening.
- Writer: James Gaddas, adapted from Bram Stoker
- Director: Pip Minnithorpe
- The Richmond Theatre
- Dates: Sunday 27th March 2022 (and touring)
- Running time: 120 Minutes including 1 x 20 minute interval