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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | September 19, 2020

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Interview: Dracula's Tim Dashwood

Interview: Dracula’s Tim Dashwood

| On 30, Jul 2015

If you like to sleep all day and party all night, then get ready for shake & stir’s thrilling new adaption of this gothic classic. Before the sun sets and the curtain rises on Transylvania, get the inside track on this spellbinding show as we talk with Dracula’s Tim Dashwood about playing Jonathan Harker, fight scenes and society’s fascination with all things fanged.

With shake & stir’s reputation for bold adaptions, and the season extended even before opening night, it’s clear that Dracula is a production to watch. A little more True Blood than it is Twilight, the play keeps pace with the Stoker’s original bloody novel, following the story of unwitting young lawyer Jonathan Harker as he stumbles into the horror of Castle Dracula…

 

The Creative Issue: This new production of Dracula is set in contemporary times—how has Stoker’s novel translated into a modern setting?

Tim Dashwood: The great thing about shake & stir’s work is that, in their adaptations, they stay very faithful to the original literature. So even though this production is contemporised we haven’t gone as far as iPads and mobile phones, etc. That would be a very difficult adaptation as the story and the tension is built by the lack of information—the unknown. Vampires have their power in the shadows, not out in the open.

Rather than a contemporary setting, it is more an adaptation into a contemporary mindset. The costumes by Leigh Buchanan are based in the original period but also don’t look too out of place in our modern world. The original book, released in 1897, was written at a time of repressed and moral values. It is very easy for a production of Bram Stoker’s book to be dusty, camp and laughable. shake & stir have found a way to make it faithful to the book but with a contemporary understanding of audiences and understandings and the plethora of vampire myth in common knowledge.

 

TCI: Vampires are such an enduring part of our narratives—why do you think these stories continue to be so popular? 

Tim Dashwood: Because they are hot and sexy! Vampires delve into the shadows—where we secretly wish we could live. They live in the dark, control ‘base’ creatures, drink blood and are driven by passion. The concept of drinking someone’s blood is a really intimate thing, it’s sharing body fluids and the myth of vampires revolves around this intimacy­—they intoxicate their prey.

Bram Stoker’s original book is not overtly sexual but if you read it with the knowledge of the repression of the time, there is so much underlying tension surrounding the characters’ choices. Repression, morality, impulse control and politeness. The vampire has none of that. They are risqué, exciting and just a little bit naughty.

 

Tim Dashwood as Jonathan Harker

Tim Dashwood as Jonathan Harker

 

TCI: What were the biggest challenges of stepping into the role of Jonathan Harker?

Tim Dashwood: The politeness and the repression! I’m a polite person but this guy travels through countries he has only read about, walks into one of the scariest castles he could ever imagine, meets an old man living alone in a giant creepy castle and constantly sees things that are unnatural and truly terrify him. BUT, he’s a gentleman, a lawyer and must be polite in all things as he is in Transylvania on business. He is aroused by some strange women who seemingly appear from nowhere, kinda loves it but represses those feelings. He even tries to repress the memories and almost sends himself insane.

So it has been a struggle to go through the thought process of dealing with all these incidences, but still behaving like a normal person and letting the madness and fear build internally until it becomes too much for him.

It is also hard looking at it from our contemporary understanding of vampires. I’ve watched ‘True Blood’, ‘Blade’, ‘The Originals’, ‘Dracula’, you name it. In this story the idea of vampires is not common knowledge. Most of these characters have never heard of vampires and have begun to accept science above the supernatural. So when peoples’ blood is seemingly sucked, they are pale and have bite marks on their neck, our characters look to natural causes and part of the play is convincing them that there are darker things in the realms of man…

 

TCI: Co-adaptor Nick Skubij has talked about using ultra-theatricality in recreating the bloodier moments of the novel for the stage—can you elaborate a little on that?

Tim Dashwood: A little… It’s a pretty tricky thing to do onstage—sucking blood, blood transfusions, staking, decapitations—you get the idea. In order to present those moments in a way that the audience doesn’t laugh but also believes it as part of the story-telling is a tricky tightrope to walk. We aren’t working on film so being ultra-realistic is rarely going to compare to what people have seen on television. Also, because we are on stage, we find it important to embrace theatrical devices to create these major moments. shake & stir is always looking for new and interesting ways to portray classic moments that are exciting and engaging for their audiences.

 

DraculaQPAC

 

TCI: You’ve trained extensively in stage combat, and are a member of the Society of Australian Fight Directors (which sounds like a great society to be a part of!). Will we be seeing much of that in Dracula?

Tim Dashwood: We sure will! It’s exciting being able to work on a show with my teacher and mentor Nigel Poulton who is one of Australia’s best Fight Directors. Nigel is working on the fights and more physical moments of the play. It is interesting because, in the book, Dracula’s death is quite anti-climactic. In this production (while using the book as the skeleton) we need to give the audience an ending that keeps the excitement building. In a way Dracula is a villain the audience loves, so we have to dispose of him in a climactic show down.

As always there are lots of smaller moments in the play too that need a Fight Director to help create. The training also comes in handy a lot of the time—even when there aren’t actual fights. Having a physical awareness is pretty important for actors.

 

TCI: When you’re not on stage, you’re also very involved in theatre education—what would be your number one piece of advice to young actors?

Tim Dashwood: Find someone you respect and admire—a teacher, mentor, elder—who can tell you the things you don’t really want to hear about yourself and process, then listen to what they say. Acting is a lot about understanding people—how they think, feel, interact— and therefore it’s good to be able to look at yourself and answer those questions before you answer them for the characters you play. It’s a bit of psycho-babble but it’s important and usually you need someone else to show you who you are.

 

TCI: Lastly, an important question: the show is having a once-off midnight performance—will audiences be too terrified to walk back to their cars after this?

Tim Dashwood: I hope so! The show will certainly have the audience on the edge of their seats and hopefully screaming with excitement, glee and fear. Then on the way out, QPAC will be dark and empty and outside will be pretty spooky.

 

Dracula opens on August 13th and tickets are already selling fast, so book your seats now! Or, if you’re feeling brave, check out the special midnight performance on the 4th of September.

 

THE DETAILS

What Dracula

Where Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

When 13th Aug – 5th Sept, 2015.

How Much $34 –$59

For more info, or to book tickets, head to shake & stir’s website here.

 

Image Credits: shake & stir theatre co.