Following their unique shot-for-shot stage recreation of George A. Romero’s classic 1968 zombie movie – Night of The Living Dead™ – Remix, imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse have joined forces again for a radical adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Dracula: The Untold Story promises audiences a glimpse of the famous vampire as never seen before, retelling the gothic horror as a live action, graphic novel from the point of view of the novel’s heroine, Mina Harker.
Niamh Melody met writer and director, Andrew Quick to find out more:
What inspired you to write and direct a production based on Dracula?
Andrew: “Dracula had been on our radar for a few years, we looked at the film Nosferatu but then we got really intrigued by the novel. The person that intrigued us the most was the figure of Mina Harker as she’s the secret author of the novel, really, within the fiction – on the one hand you have all these men and violence and then you’ve got this clever woman on the other side. We got thinking about whether we trust Mina and what her version of the story is. So we started by looking at the end of the novel and what happened in her life after, through the 1900s, as it’s an era that we’re really interested in”.
Did you feel a sense of responsibility as a male director to portray this female perspective accurately?
Andrew: “Theatre is a collaborative process, so you do share a lot of the development but it was about responsibility in one sense. The story’s been told in so many viewpoints so we looked at a new air we could breathe into it and it felt like Mina’s story post Dracula was really interesting, which meant it wasn’t a difficult narrative to build up. And as it’s told in a graphic novel style there isn’t a huge psychological depth as it’s not that type of show – there is a clear character and a story to be told but she’s also a superhero figure really so in that sense she’s both complicated and easier to write.
“We did feel an ethical imperative to get it right so that she has a resistance and attitude to the male world which feels contemporary. And in the novel the author, Bram Stoker seems to worry about the new woman arriving and he has this fear about what women might become, and our Mina in the 20th century is a more proactive version of that possibility.
“And then of course the actors come in and they reshape it with you so it all comes back to being collaborative. In the end theatre is a thing made with a large group of people all chipping in”.
Dracula: The Untold Story combines live stage with graphic novel. What is it that draws you to writing and directing these types of productions?
Andrew: “It’s very difficult in the contemporary world not to acknowledge that technology is how we shape and engage with other people. So the screen feels like a very present dynamic and the company (imitating the dog) has always been interested in our interactions with technology. Now graphic novels are really interesting because they combine literary, the graphic and the cinematic in its storytelling and we’ve always been interested in the style that it uses.
“Part of this idea actually came out of COVID as we didn’t know how restricted we’d be [by the time rehearsals started] so when we first constructed the idea, the graphic novel panels would be made live on stage by the actors and it meant that we could keep the actors separate.
“In the past Dracula is either this charming seducer or he’s a creature from hell with very little character. And we take the latter on in our show, he’s more of a shadow which suits the graphic novel style where you don’t have the classic psychological realism”.
How was bringing the show to life difficult because of COVID and the situation in the past year?
Andrew: “It was difficult – when we actually started rehearsals properly in June we were losing people everyday to isolation and positive contacts and so on. So we were working with all the restrictions but it was very disruptive and none of us knew how it was going to pan out. But luckily the second rehearsal period was when things were opening up slightly so we pulled it together and made what I think is a really great show. By September I knew that it was going to work”.
What do you think audiences can expect from this production?
Andrew: “We’ve got this phrase ‘We want them to be entertained so that they’ll entertain our ideas’ which I think is a really important idea. First of all we want the audience to be engaged by the story and find the theatrical production exciting. At the same time I hope the audience picks up on the ideas that we circulate in the show, one of which is if you take on evil how can you stop becoming evil yourself and that’s the great conundrum of Mina Harker in this show. Then there’s ideas from that about responsibility and evil and ethics and because these are heavy topics they’re not overtly discussed but they are in the background, so I hope the audience get a sense of that”.
Do you hope that theatre will be appreciated more after the events of the last two years?
Andrew: “I hope so. I think people appreciate a lot more about all aspects of life that they took for granted before. Theatre is all about being in the space with people so I’m hoping that people will come back, and they are so far. One of the things the theatre industry did, is it adapted really well to the pandemic. Companies like ours tried really hard to keep freelancers in employment, and by doing that we developed new forms of performance making, which is exciting. One of the things we need to get used to is the idea that this might happen again, in a different way, so an online presence of theatre is important and theatre people are very capable of adapting to that world and showing that we can make great work in all sorts of different contexts”.
Written and directed by imitating the dog’s co-artistic directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, Dracula: The Untold Story will open at The Lowry, Salford Quays where it runs for 2 nights from 12-13 November 2021 before touring. The show is also available to watch digitally on demand. Age guidance 14+.