When actor James Gaddas received an offer to work on a television documentary exploring the origins of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it sent him into an obsessive investigation to discover the truth behind the myth.
Such is the premise of this new adaptation, in which Gaddas is not only the writer but performer of fifteen different characters. Bringing Stoker’s novel to life is something many others have done from the days of the silent screen: if you haven’t read the book, you have surely seen one of the film, television or stage adaptations.
But what if Stoker had really meant to write a work of non-fiction about vampiric activity, and what if an investigation into his real intentions is cursed? As Gaddas tells the story of his interaction with documentary evidence and a trail which takes him to Romania and back, the tension cleverly builds with the use of music by Jeremy Swift and lighting by Matt Karmios.
Dracula is the premier Gothic novel – a masterpiece of storytelling and chills. Shaping this into a show which brings something different to the table is quite an ask, but Gaddas delivers his version with a light dusting of humour and some genuine shivers, as well as deadpanning the situations in which he finds himself as he follows the story.
There is very little blood and gore in this show. It is mostly about suggestion and reaction, and to say more might ruin your enjoyment of the evening. If you don’t know the basic story of Dracula there is enough exposition to follow what’s going on but be aware that Bram Stoker’s plotline and that of James Gaddas as he utilises photos, newspapers, letters and more to follow it are played indiscriminately.
By the end of the show, we are not quite sure which story we are watching, until the big reveal which is perhaps a little disappointing but pulls us into what has been an evening of expert fabrication and misdirection.
Directed by Pip Minnithorpe, Dracula is an enjoyable take on an old classic.
Dracula was at the Richmond Theatre on 28th March 2022, and continues on tour – for details, go to https://www.draculatheplay.com/
Reviewer: Louise Penn
Reviewed: 28th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★