Many of the best horror stories are about more than horror. Dracula is one example. When Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, the gothic horror novel tapped into the contemporary fears of English society; fears about the coming end of Empire and fears that women in Victorian England were becoming more than (male) society said they should be. Stoker, being Irish and so an outsider to England, was perfectly placed to write a horror story that so directly tapped into the fears that he had observed in the English psyche. After all, one of the main thrusts of the story of Dracula is the idea of a swarthy foreigner coming in and ‘corrupting’ British women, enticing them to live out their forbidden desires and temptations.
In her adaptation, Liz Lochhead explores and expands on many of Stoker’s ideas, and introduces ones of her own which work for a modern audience, specifically expanding the story revolving around Renfield. In particular, she chooses to expand on the role of women in Victorian England and the barriers they faced in a male-dominated society. And so we see Mina and Lucy battle their emotions and desires – torn between what is right and proper, and what they really want to do…
Surrounding all these sociological explorations is a great chilling horror story, and one iconic character whose icy-cold fingers touch everything we see (or read): Dracula. Dracula is not the world’s original vampire but he is the most famous, and his impact has been felt throughout the past century right up to today. Vampires hold a fascination – they’re immortal and so is their popularity. Vampires are resurrected for every generation in guises that befit the needs of the time. Vampires in 2012 are misguided lost souls who are in need of understanding and rescue. Bram Stoker’s Dracula at the time was something totally different.
What was great about directing this production was that we created our own version, vision and impact of a vampire. I will be in trouble for saying this, but vampires are evil – no matter what the Twilight generation may believe, they are not quietly brooding misunderstood people who just have bad moods and can be changed by the love of a good woman. For all vampires, ‘the blood is the life’. Vampires are eternally complex creatures, however, as they are not just fathomless evil. As Van Helsing says of Dracula: ‘Whose victim was he?’