Three Perth-based independent theatre companies join forces to present The Gothics, a series of three gothic horror tales produced under Nexus Theatre. Murdoch Theatre Company, From The Hip Productions, and Second Chance Theatre are each presenting a revitalised stage adaptation of classic horror stories over three consecutive weekends this July: Dracula, The Mummy Rises, and Frankenstein. Actor Joel Sammels very kindly agreed to tell us more about the first show in the trilogy, Dracula, directed by John King, which opens tomorrow night (July 7th) at Nexus Theatre on the Murdoch University campus.
How did you become involved in Dracula and The Gothics?
I’ve known the director, John King, for a long time. We were both making our way through our theatre degrees around the same period and we’ve always got on well. Scott Mcardle, the director of Frankenstein, mentioned the project to me last year and invited me along to a workshop and John cast me from there.
What character are you playing and what do you find challenging about the role?
I’ll be playing Dracula. The most challenging thing about playing Dracula is that he is such an infamous character that everyone comes in with an idea of how he should look and act. You walk a fine line between playing a cliché and upsetting people because it’s not the character the want or expect.
Finding that balance between human and monster has also been tough. He’s the ultimate super villain but at the same time we know he was once alive, and someone or something forced this life upon him. I think that his humanity, in a way, is what makes him so terrifying, That someone who can draw us in and be charming at times, can also be so vicious and cruel.
Tell us a little more about 1924 adaptation by Hamilton Deane. Is it an easy script to work on?
I think Dracula lends itself more to a visual medium like stage or screen. The epistolary format of the novel and the nature of the language, which is extremely visual, isn’t something that resonates with the majority of people today. By putting it on stage, you remove the need for the excessively visual descriptions and allow the audience to focus on the characters, their actions and their dialogue, which is the most fascinating aspect of the story for me.
In terms of ease to work with, I’m probably the wrong person to ask. As an actor I have the easy job of just rocking up and reading the lines. The Hamilton Deane script has extremely detailed stage directions, which weren’t always practical, and I think in same cases now illegal. I’m sure John had his work cut out for him finding ways to make it work, but he never showed it.
Do you have a favourite Dracula adaptation?
I really enjoyed the 2006 BBC version. I thought Marc Warren’s Dracula was very subtle and clever.
What has been the most enjoyable part about working on this production? The least enjoyable?
Most enjoyable is being able to immerse myself in such an iconic character. It’s always fun when you get to play the bad guy. The cast are a great bunch of people as well so that always makes things easier.
Least enjoyable would be losing any notion of free time. I work full time as a teacher, and still play local footy on the weekend so rehearsing combined with these has meant I’ve had to give up anything resembling a social life.
Why should people come see the show?
I think a lot of people know who Dracula is but aren’t familiar with the story, and while this is an adaptation, audience members can experience the premise on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday night, while having a drink, and in under 2 hours.
I’m biased but I also think there is magical aspect to the theatre, it’s a more immersive and personal experience than watching a film, and more confronting than reading a book. There’s a movement away from screens and towards experiences, we see that in the continual increase in popularity of live music and stand-up comedy, but I think people see the theatre as inaccessible or pretentious, I think this is a great opportunity to come see a show whose general premise they will be familiar with so they can have that experience and judge for themselves.
Dracula runs from July 7 – 9 at 7:30pm
Venue: Nexus Theatre, 90 South Street, Murdoch WA 6150