shake & stir theatre co’s national tour of Dracula will arrive at the Cardina Cultural Centre on 6 June.
Bringing such an iconic story to the stage is no small task. The Baw Baw Citizen caught up company creative director and actor Ross Balbuziente to talk about bringing Dracula to life.
Ross: We’ve got a really lovely balance between maintaining the faithfulness of the original source material, the novel Bram Stoker created, but then coupled with some really high production values which then creates a large-scale theatrical experience for our audiences. Being very very truthful to the original, but then coupling that to modern theatricality which does surprise audience.
We’ve got an epic revolving stage that’s lavishly designed that transports the audience through time and across different locations. We’ve got all the bells and whistles to create the atmosphere of the piece.
Baw Baw Citizen: Looking back at the history of Dracula, have you borrowed much from previous interpretations? Many people’s exposure to Dracula is through Hammer Horror – have you looked to other people’s interpretations in trying to figure out how to make this production look?
Ross: No, there was an intentional decision made across the whole creative team, our director and our design team, to not base this on any other adaptation of Dracula.
What has been used as inspiration has been the gothic architecture and the gothic wardrobe, and we’re not even slavishly tying ourselves to those elements but the design team has obviously been inspired by the shapes and the textures and the angles of those very beautiful designs. But then we put this together and created our own world which again, depending on each moment of the production, has shades of the modern but also very very ingrained with tradition.
BBC: You mentioned you’re on a national tour and you have a lot of very big Dracula fans coming to see you, how have your audiences responded so far?
Ross: There’s nothing better than hearing audible gasps from an audience, when there’s shock at perhaps Dracula’s appearance or reappearance, or the intentional moments where it’s the goal of the cast and the creatives and the crew to scare our audience. But then it’s also really lovely to give the audience the opportunity to have a sigh of relief and have moments of laughter, which allow the audience members to regulate themselves I guess, and then jump back on board the ghost train experience which is the show.
BBC: If you could become a vampire, would you?
Ross: Oh look, they’ve got it pretty well. I mean, as an artist and practitioner, I’ve been working in this field for close to 15 years now, a lot of my most creative moments come at night time, so I guess I can relate to Dracula’s nocturnal lifestyle. There’s a lot of stuff, you know the drinking blood ain’t that appealing to me, but I’ll give anything a shot!
BBC: You’ve recently done productions of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. A blood sucker must be a pretty light character to do work on in comparison!
Ross: The same creative team responsible for those productions… have come together to work on this particular production with the same amount of care and attention to detail, despite there not being that obvious political slant. Again, it throws back to the privilege we get to present these classic words on stage, and adapting them for a new audience. We love that opportunity and we don’t take [it] lightly. There’s a lot of care and precision which goes into creating these [adaptions of] classics for stage.
BBC: Who are you hoping turns up?
Ross: If past audiences are anything to go by, it’s really a cross-section. Vampire fiction, and Dracula being one of the most famous vampires of all time, has infiltrated so much of our pop culture. There’s hardly any film, TV, book in that style which hasn’t been inspired by the very notion of Dracula. There’s a lot of [people] out there who love American Horror Story and True Blood, and Twilight dare I say, and who want want to come and enjoy and revel in what is the most classic vampire.
BBC: How do you find fans of the modern vampires, the Twilight fans and so on, do you feel they have a different response to Dracula than other more traditional fans?
Ross: Die hard fans are fans of Dracula himself, so regardless if they’re reading the novel that Bram wrote all those years ago or watching a modern adaption, they’re team Dracula all the way. Their response is really interesting, where they’ve devoted a large portion of their lives to following everything gothic-inspired and Drac- (sic) and vampire-inspired, and it’s really refreshing and really nice to meeting these people across the country.
We’ve had audience members in the past rock up with garlic wreaths around their neck or in capes or with fangs; it’s always nice to meet those true, true, die hard fans. But again, you don’t need to be a die hard fan to enjoy this piece of fiction.
You can book tickets for the show online at wgac.com.au
This story first appeared in the 2 June 2017 print edition of the Baw Baw Citizen as ‘When Dracula comes to town’
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