BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA: One Man’s Search For The Truth

Bram Stoker’s gothic horror must be amongst the best know stories of all time, and I say story rather than novel as actor and adaptor of this reworking points out very early on, very few of us have actually read it. It comes to us via the cinema, via TV and on occasion through theatre, but seldom does it come to us in its complete form. That actor is James Gaddas, a name you may not remember but a face you might easily recognise as he has over the years played many popular roles in popular TV series – from Coronation Street to Bad Girls, and he is often cast a the villain, Gaddas the bad ass so to speak.

But here we see him in a very different role, playing himself, the actor, in a construct of his own devising. Here he is the actor accepting from his agent a TV presenting role that will take him on a dark journey into obsession and mental breakdown as he seeks to uncover whether there is a real truth behind Stoker’s fiction.

Alone on stage Gaddas becomes each of the characters in that tale, all except for the role of the count himself, he keeps the count as a figure described by the characters around him, a malevolent presence rather than a fanged reality, and this conceit works brilliantly.

In fact the whole is a rather brilliantly conceived and executed retelling of the book, not complete of course, that would be nigh on impossible. But what he does achieve is a very involving representation of the whole, alongside a very believable representation of the somewhat cynical approach to current TV documentary making.

Gaddas has not only written this masterful peice of theatre but also plays it with real conviction and with skill. Here he proves that he is an actor of real stage presence, a presence that held the audience gripped from start to finish. There are moments of wit too, humour in his self deprecation, the application of bathos to great dramatic effect and that all too often missing art of pure stagecraft rather than the reliance of technical wizardry. Gaddas is truly impressive.

All this said credit must be given to the rest of the team behind this captivating show. Director Pip Minnithorpe has done so with skill, allowing Gaddas the space to become each part in a seamless manner. The original music and soundscape by Jeremy Swift is hauntingly good, never resorting to cliche except for the occasional haunting scream and flutter of bats and the illusion design by John Bulleid is similarly stark and never overblown. Deborah Radin’s movement direction is equally well contained leaving the heart of the performance to the skill of James Gaddas – a feat that he accomplishes with panache.

Andrew Kay

Theatre Royal Brighton

4 April

Rating: ★★★★★

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