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Get your teeth into Dracula – and be prepared for dance

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 20, 2013

Dracula as you've never seen it before at the  Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

Dracula as you've never seen it before at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

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"I simply never tire of Dracula. It is a great story – but it also has an elusive magic. It opens our imagination and dreams." Mark Bruce, hugely respected dance choreographer and Associate Artist at Bristol's Tobacco Factory Theatre, is explaining how Bram Stoker's gothic classic has fascinated him since childhood – and why he has known, for almost as long, that he must make a dance version.

And Tobacco Factory audiences will get to see the fruits of this long-held wish next week, as Bruce and his company unveil their haunting, erotic take on the classic tale.

"I was probably about nine or ten when I first read Dracula, and I have come back to it many times since," Bruce continues. "I used to draw comics of it all the time, long before imagining a dance version – which I've thought about since I started dancing in the 1980s.

"Although few people have actually read the book, an idea of Dracula is embedded in all of us, mainly through the movies. He is an enigmatic character, often just a presence alluded to – perhaps, really, the manifestation of a darker side to ourselves."

For Bruce, the fact that Dracula is not a modern historical novel, but a contemporary account of Victorian life and values, adds to its authenticity.

"It is a product of its time, and shows up the prevalent concerns of Victorian society – the emergence and interest in science and its effect on religion; foreign travel; fears and taboos; the perception and place of women. It is also a subtly erotic novel, although it's impossible to know how much irony was intended by Stoker in all its sexual connotations."

"Underneath it all, though, it is a story with a human heart."

Bruce's previous dance-theatre productions have been much praised, featuring an eclectic mix of musical influences and often leading audiences into dark and mysterious territory.

His company made their TF debut back in 2011 with Love and War, which threw the audience into a time-shifting underworld where figures from myth and ritual collided – set to a soundtrack mixing Debussy and Queens of the Stone Age.

Key influences on Bruce's Dracula, meanwhile, have been the two Nosferatu films – the 1922 silent version directed by FW Murnau and the 1979 version directed by Werner Herzog, featuring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani.

"I also love the early Hammer Horror versions, and it is hard to exorcise the image of Christopher Lee when trying to picture the character of Dracula. But I wouldn't say I am referencing any particular film. Many films capture a magic in their own right, but I have gone back to Bram Stoker's novel and then allowed some influences to creep in."

Interestingly, an old Tom Baker Doctor Who episode from the 1970s, The Talons of Weng Chiang, has also influenced Mark's vision.

"I was particularly struck by its use of light and darkness, and what our imagination creates when darkness replaces light. This also reminds me of the old Penny Dreadfuls [lurid Victorian serial stories] appearing in parts over a number of weeks, which also influenced the production."

Bruce's eclectic soundtrack ranges from Bach and Mozart to Gyorgy Ligeti (a composer born, appropriately enough, in Dracula's native Transylvania), and on to Eastern European folk music and even some of the choreographer's own compositions.

The creative crew includes designer Phil Eddolls, who created the memorable sets for Bristol Old Vic's Treasure Island and, this summer, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The show's puppets and masks, meanwhile, have been created by Bristol's brilliant adult-puppet troupe Pickled Image.

Bruce's Dracula, meanwhile, is Jonathan Goddard – "Britain's finest male contemporary dancer", according to The Observer. "Jonathan will bring many sides to the role – the hunter, the wolf, the noble and sinister count, the lonely undead, as well as a malevolent humour, a callous streak and a childlike naivety. Just as in the novel, you never know quite what he will do next."

Dracula runs from Wednesday, September 25, to Saturday, September 28, at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol. To book go www.tobaccofactorytheatre.com

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