New version of Dracula set to sink its teeth into Crawley

James Gaddas is adaptor and sole performer as he brings Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the stage at The Hawth Crawley on April 10 and Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on April 3.
James GaddasJames Gaddas
James Gaddas

Ask him why he embarked on it, and the answer is simple.

“It was lockdown. It was just literally because I was sitting on my backside but I have actually always enjoyed writing and I thought it was a good time to put something together.

“Why this one, the reason is that it is such a great story and it is the kind of story that people love to see.

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“We are all fascinated by Dracula and this was an opportunity.

“When I went back to the book you could see just how modern it was, written in such a modern way almost like a blog.

“You’ve got diary entries and notes and so on and it just seemed to open itself up to being a one-man show.

“I mused for a long time trying to work out the easiest way to do it, whether it was just me on the stage with the book in my hand and doing passages from it or whatever, but that idea just bored me. I felt I needed a different way into it.

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“I was sitting watching the Discovery Channel one afternoon, all these documentaries about people looking for hidden treasure and I just thought that there might be something there. There’s always been talk about 96 pages missing from Dracula and I thought that I might approach the whole thing from the point of view of one of these documentaries and something goes terribly wrong in the first week of filming.”

In James’ version, James plays himself, and the idea is that when James 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.

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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?

James will be playing around 14 characters, making full use of accents but also full use of physicality.

As he says, sometimes it’s enough just to drop your shoulder to become someone else.

He has got a very northern doctor to play; his Harker is rather excitable; his Arthur Homewood is rather “terribly, terribly and could easily be played by Richard E Grant”; and his Van Helsing is “your stereotypical continental doctor.”

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Meanwhile he will be doing his best to make sure that the women in the piece aren’t “just a little bit Monty Python”: “That would kill it!

“I started the tour on February 8 and it has had a good response.

“You can only go by the audience reaction but there is generally a stillness in the audience and they really seemed to listen to it which is great.

“It’s that fascination we have with Dracula. He’s one of those characters that we all grew up with, one of those horror characters that we are forever aware of.

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“And he is a mixture of things really. If you go back to the original, he needs blood to stay young but when it starts he is wanting to buy a property in Europe because he is in a dirty old castle on his own and he has aged. When Harker goes to visit him, he wants to talk about life in London.

“He is lonely. Even monsters get lonely. He just wants to be part of society but part of it on his terms. There is arrogance about him.”