In the spring of 2020, the Creative Learning Department was preparing to put on a production of Dracula by Liz Lochhead. Obviously with the changes to the world in regards to the global pandemic, the show had to unfortunately be cancelled. This was a great upset to the audience of the show that had nearly sold out within a very short space of time. So when looking at performances this year for the Drama Studio, director and Head of Creative Learning, Philip Crawford, knew it would be a great idea for the public and for returning cast members to get a version of this performed. So as we come to the end of the first week of rehearsals, we decided to take a look back at Dracula and the origins of one of the most iconic horror characters of all time.
The original novel was written by Irish Author, Bram Stoker, in 1897 whilst he worked as the personal assistant of Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London which today houses the world renowned performance of The Lion King. Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847 and went on to study mathematics at Trinity College which he later described as a mistake. Perhaps that was what led him to become the auditor of the College Historical Society, from where began his journey into writing with his first paper on Sensationalism in Fiction and Society. Stoker became a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail and after a favorable review of Hamlet in the Theatre Royal, he became friends with the actor who played the protagonist, Henry Irving. After wedding Florence Balcombe, an ex-partner of Oscar Wilde, in 1878 he moved to London to become acting manager of the Lyceum, a position he held for 27 years. First visiting Whitby, where Dracula is set, in 1890, he began to write novels. His first publication being The Snake’s Pass in 1890 followed by Dracula itself in 1897. Well received by critics and peers alike at the time, Dracula was not a bestselling piece of work whilst Stoker was alive and by the time of his death in 1912 had not made him a lot of money. The novel gained more notoriety nearly a decade after his passing when an unauthourised adaption to film was made and Stoker’s widow consequently sued the production company, Prana Film. Another whole decade passed before one of the most famous film adaptions by Universal Pictures starring Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan, two actors reprising their roles from the original stage production in New York.
With such a cult classic character and some of the world’s most famous actors having played The Count; Gary Oldman, Christopher Lee etc. it can seem an impossible task just to decide what direction the production goes in. Alas after more research than you or I could ever imagine, Philip decided upon the stage adaption by Liz Lochhead, made ironically for the Royal Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh in 1985. A version I’m sure will pay homage to the original text as well as prove a real thriller for a modern audience to sink their teeth into.
Pun entirely intended.
The first week began with a lot of the cast being acquainted with people they haven’t met more than once or twice as some members of the previous Drama Studio were cast alongside the current year. With it being the first week the go to start is to have a full read through which can seem like one of the more straightforward steps to a production but with the added element of it all being on Zoom it can be a struggle. Luckily the youth of the cast shines through and tackles technological problems head on so lag, interruptions and echo is a thing of the past. A positive attitude was felt throughout and at the end of the read through, a real sense of hope for the future of this production and theatre as a whole in 2021.
The Creative Learning Intern is funded by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and Creative & Cultural Skills.