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Dracula at Richmond Theatre | Review

Much of the audience is, as James Gaddas points out, aware of the Dracula story, without ever having read Bram Stoker’s novel. Well, there’s a chance I could be in the minority, but I have no recollection of ever having read it, and I was counting on this production explaining, one way or another, whatever needed to be explained, for those like me who hadn’t. Being a single-performer show, there’s a lot of exposition, and while there are some props here and there, it is the storytelling itself that allows one’s imagination to envisage what isn’t staged.

DraculaA light sprinkling of gentle humour permeates the evening, which consists of a recollection of events that occurred to an actor who took a job working on a television documentary to ‘discover’ Dracula, broadly similar to the television series Finding Bigfoot. The intention appeared to have been to capture the crew’s miscellaneous attempts at following up lines of enquiry, without calling into question the existence of an actual Dracula, and at the same time ultimately indulging in an exercise in futility. It’s the sort of thing that apparently makes for good television.

To provide further narrative detail would be giving too much away, though I trust it is not too much of a spoiler to add that as Gaddas is telling his story in retrospect, he has returned from his escapades to Romania (and other places) in one piece, if not entirely unscathed. The music and the sound effects add much to the increasingly creepy atmosphere, but without the pretentiousness of a television show, where the music swells to a supposedly dramatic moment. At one point, Gaddas puts a torch under his face, shining upwards, an acknowledgement – perhaps even a satirical one – of the age-old manner in which a scary tale is sometimes told and retold.

The ending, at face value, is slightly underwhelming, though I found it to be hilariously anti-climactic: the detail in the build-up to the finale veered towards melodrama but never quite crossed the threshold. Already hooked in by a story being told in a compelling manner, various pop culture references helped to engage the audience further. There was sufficient detail in the narrative to give it considerable credibility – including, for instance, who was present whenever something substantial happened, and how the narrator’s personal life became affected by an all-consuming desire to delve deeper into investigating certain claims and assertions.

It’s the story of Dracula, for sure, but not as one might expect it to be told. For one thing, there’s no fake blood on the stage at any point. A delightful and refreshing take on a famous tale.

4 stars

Few stories capture the imagination more powerfully than Dracula.
But when James Gaddas (‘Bad Girls’, ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Medics’ etc) comes across Bram Stoker’s original handwritten copy while working on a satellite channel TV show, what he reads chills him to the bone.
From strange encounters in the Count’s castle in Transylvania, to his ghostly arrival on a ship of death off the coast of Whitby, through midnight seductions and a heroic pursuit across Europe, racing against the setting of the sun – all have served to thrill and excite readers in equal measure.

But this copy contains pages never actually published and leads him to a terrifying discovery.
What if everything we thought we knew – was just the beginning? What if it’s not a story – but a warning! What if the legend – is real!

Gaddas brings the original version to life – before sharing his discovery in this electrifying stage show. One actor, fifteen characters. One monumental decision.

Are some things better left buried?!
Directed by Pip Minnithorpe (UK Associate Director – ‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child’)
Original Music by Jeremy Swift (acclaimed actor – ‘Downtown Abbey’, ‘Ted Lasso’ etc, and composer)
Illusion Design by John Bulleid (Illusions behind the Olivier Award-Winning ‘The Worst Witch’)

Dracula at Richmond Theatre
Dracula is at Richmond Theatre on Sunday 27th March, 2022.


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