A new adaptation of Dracula receives its London premiere in February 2019 at the historic London Library – the venue where Bram Stoker spent seven years researching his gothic masterpiece and creating one of fiction’s most enduring characters.
This atmospheric site-specific production, by Oxford-based Creation Theatre, transports the narrative to the 1950s, set amongst the emotional and social restrictions of the era. We meet a young couple reeling from their encounters with the demon Count. Jonathan struggles with his role as husband and protector, while Mina rails against the limitations placed on her as an intelligent woman.
I caught up with Lucy Askew, head of and creative producer at Creation Theatre, to find out more.
Why is now the time to revisit Dracula?
Is there ever a time when vampires aren’t terrifying, sexy, manipulative immortal aristocrats aren’t appealing? Apparently there’s a correlation between stories about zombies being popular in times of austerity and vampires in prosperity. We’re hoping it’s actually cause and effect and the vampires bring the prosperity. In all seriousness as a teenager in the 90’s who was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Interview with a Vampire, and True Blood this is really 10 years of my waiting to geek on vampire culture again.
What’s different about site specific theatre?
It has enormous challenges. Everyday at the London Library we will be setting up and clearing our seating, set and technical equipment in the short time between the Library closing and the show opening. Off setting that though is the fact that we get the most incredible, money can’t buy sets. Our venues are a massive part of the experience and completely built into the fabric of the piece, they also completely immerse our audience. In a conventional theatre you can end up sat a long way from the stage and in all honesty. especially in the days of HD TV it isn’t really that different to going to the Cinema or watching Netflix. Site specific work is nearly always far more intimate and can totally transport the audience to feeling that they are a part of the piece.
How difficult was it to use the library space?
The biggest challenge is that working around library opening hours our time in the library if very limited. We will have 5 evenings for technical rehearsals in the evenings the week before the show opens where there will inevitable challenges we aren’t even aware of yet. Power supply in the room is very low with just a few domestic sockets, but technology thank fully has developed enough in the last few years to make lower power consumption shows far more feasible
How was the library’s connection with Bram Stoker discovered?
Phillip Marshall the Libraries Director came to see our production of Dracula at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. He loved the show and asked if we would consider bringing it to the library. We came to see the library and were blown away by what an amazing space it is and bit their hand off as fast as we could. The Library knew Stoker had been a member but Phillip asked his team to research the connection further. Their Development Director Phillip Spedding then made the most amazing discoveries. He discovered the very books Stoker checked out whilst researching Dracula and then as he went through them discovered pencil markings in Stokers handwriting in the margins.
The production has been transported to the 1950s – why did you choose this time period?
Our originally production in Oxford was staged in the Norrington Room of Blackwell’s bookshop (in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest room selling books in the world) which was built in the 1950’s. We wanted the show to fit to it’s environment so looked the 1950’s. Sexual repression and traditional gender roles play a big part in the original text which transposed perfectly to the 1950’s. It’s given the production a beautiful film noir feel and I can’t imagine it any other way now.
Do you think the story has resonance for all times?
Yes. Reduce it down and it’s really all about sex and death I think we’re quite a long way from either of them not resonating with the human experience.
The show runs from Sat 2 Feb – Sun 3 March and tickets are available here.