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“I don’t think there is a bad time to tell this story,” observes Matthew Campbell, director of the upcoming production of “Dracula” at the Boardmore Playhouse.
“It’s true that Dracula would have suited the Halloween season well, but the vampire concept has been diluted and distorted by the mass media. Dracula doesn’t sparkle. And there are no jack-o’-lanterns. Dracula transmutes his form and his story spans generations.”
“Dracula,” adapted by Steven Dietz from the novel by Bram Stoker, runs at the Boardmore Playhouse on the Cape Breton University campus, with sold-out school performances from Nov. 18-22, and public performances: Nov. 22-23, 7 p.m. nightly, and a Nov. 24, 2 p.m. matinee.
Campbell has been a familiar onstage face to local theatre audiences with memorable performances at the Boardmore, the Highland Arts Theatre, and the Savoy Theatre (as the slimy innkeeper, Thénardiers), but “Dracula” is his first full-length play as a director.
“I have only directed a one-act play at CBU,” he recalls. “It was a comedy based upon the Book of Genesis called ‘Where It All Begins’ and featured a diverse cast and crew. It was a fantastic learning experience. I sometimes come across one of the costume pieces as we’re putting the finishing touches on the show and it always makes me smile.”
“The adaptation we’re doing actually isn’t the first one that I brought to Todd (Hiscock, director of the Boardmore Theatre),” Campbell recalls. “But in discussing the play and the reach of the story, we decided to look at something a bit more dynamic that presents a more accurate portrayal of the journey of all of our characters.”
The cast includes Dave Petrie, Graeme McNabb, Kevin Munroe, Jonathan Lewis, Mea Tonet, Jess Hardy, Donnie Antle, Emma Francis, Julia Rideout, Victoria Somerton, Phonse Walsh, Rony Robson, Tirth Rony, Tirth Ramani and Robson Ramani.
The adaptation by American playwright and director Steven Dietz has earned praise for its modern approach to its venerable source material without resorting to campiness or too strict adherence to Stoker’s sometimes creaky storytelling.
Campbell says that working on Dietz’s adaptation has been interesting.
“The adaptation is fairly explicit about stage direction, but we have certainly had to make accommodations due to space and set design considerations. Everyone has brought a great deal to their characters and we’ve been very collaborative.”
Campbell notes all of the characters in the “Dracula” story have a compelling tale to tell.
“So much media has focused solely on Dracula himself. I think Renfield would make for a fascinating origin story. Why is he under Dr. Seward’s care? Who was the man before he was brought to the asylum?”
As for the young man the Blood Count first ensnares, Campbell says, “Kevin Munroe’s Harker has a complex arc. He is keen to impress his boss. He wants his first big job to be successful. He wants to provide for his soon-to-be bride. And Kevin has asked some important questions to better understand Harker.”
“Yet, Dracula is the figure the story is about and we see so much of the human condition reflected in his story. He wasn’t always an undead figure driven by instinct to feed on the living. He was a man whose heart was broken so completely that he turned his back on God and damned himself for all eternity.”
Besides being a story of the undead, Campbell said, “Many of us can relate to feeling lost and powerless when a relationship comes to an end. And many of us have experienced overwhelming urges to do things that reason tells us we shouldn’t.”
“And, finally, death is something which haunts us all. The finality of death is frightening and heartbreaking all at once. Dracula brings both of those emotions together and combines them with the terror their intermingling engender.
“Plus, the fangs are fun to wear.”
Campbell says that opening in November, “Part of our consideration in the timeline was being sure that we didn’t rush the creative process. I don’t think there is a bad time to tell this story.”
Ken Chisholm lives in Sydney and has written plays, songs, reviews, magazine articles. He can be reached at email@example.com.