Director, actor, writer, translator and drama teacher, Michael Theodorou has something of a fascination with Bram Stoker and Dracula, having now written three plays inspired by the author and his work. His original adaptation of Dracula was described as “genuinely disturbing” by Oxford University Press. He followed this up with Lugosi, a dark exploration of the demons which plagued the aging actor during his 1951 British revival tour of Dracula. Michael has now rounded off the series with There Are Such Things, a play about Bram Stoker himself, which is intended as the first half of a double bill to include Lugosi. Set in 1906, the play finds Stoker suffering from temporary blindness as the result of a stroke. As his wife Florence tries to nurse him back to health, Stoker experiences a series of strange visitations. Is the invalid author suffering from hallucination, delusions or is it all real? Proving that there are indeed such things, no less a personage than Mr. Stoker himself decided to quiz Michael about his new play.
Bram: What is the name of heaven possessed you to write a play about me, Michael?
Michael: It was actually my wife who first suggested the idea to me, Bram, as I’d already written a stage adaptation of your ‘Dracula’ and also a play about Bela Lugosi. She thought it would round off the series of plays inspired by your work.
Bram: Well, that’s very flattering of you to say so, Michael, but was she aware that I might be rather a dull subject?
Michael: Nothing of the kind, Bram, as soon as I started to write the play, ideas flowed very quickly and I developed a concept for your portrayal almost immediately.
Bram: A concept you say? What does that mean exactly?
Michael: It means that the actor who plays you has a double role.
Bram: In what way?
Michael: Before I explain, Bram, I’d like to tell you how the play starts –
Sir Henry Irving, Stoker’s friend and employer for 27 years. The shock of his death is said to have brought on Stoker’s first stroke.
You are sitting in the upstairs room of your house in Chelsea, the date is 1906. Sir Henry Irving is dead and you’ve already had a stroke which leaves you partially blind. There is violin music playing, the lights come up to reveal you writing at your desk. You half close your eyes and the lights dim to indicate that your sight is going. The music continues and swells. You look towards the audience and feel a presence entering from behind you – it is a very beautiful, seductive vampiress who approaches you with graceful movements and strokes your hair and your brow. You say, ‘ I was afraid to raise my eyelids……..
Bram: ……………….but saw perfectly under the lashes’. You’re quoting from my ‘Dracula’!
Michael: I am. The lady wants to seduce you and this lady is your wife!
Bram: My wife!
Michael: Oh, yes, she’s the other character in the play.
Bram: What happens next?
Michael: The scene ends, there’s a blackout and we hear a knocking at the door. The ‘vampiress’ has become your wife Florence Stoker. She enters – quick costume change of course – and you have a conversation. She is concerned about your eyes and staying up late writing.
Florence Stoker, a society beauty whose suitors included Oscar Wilde
Bram: Now that’s exactly what my wife used to do! That’s awfully clever of you, Michael, how did you know all this?
Michael: Pure imagination, Bram, and it seemed a good way to start the play.
Bram: How do you represent my wife in the play? Is it a good part?
Michael: It’s a wonderful part for an actress not only does she play herself and a vampires but also your mother!
Bram: My mother! My mother’s in the play too!?
Michael: Oh, yes, you wouldn’t wish me to forget your mother, would you?
Bram: Of course not, she was probably the biggest single influence on my life and my writing. If truth be told probably a greater influence than my wife.
Michael: Well, there you are then I’ve got them all in the same play for you!
Bram Stoker’s Mother, Charlotte Matilda Blake Thornley Stoker
Courtesy of www.bramstokerestate.com
Bram: What were you saying earlier, Michael , about a double role for my character?
Michael: Ah,yes. Your character, Bram, is himself………. plus another character.
Bram: What do you mean?
Michael: I mean that you play Van Helsing as well!
Bram: Van Helsing? Van Helsing you say? How is that possible?
Michael: Ah, stagecraft, Bram, and a bit of a challenge for the actor!
Bram: Will that not seem rather odd to an audience?
Michael: Perhaps at first but after a while they’ll get used to you being a double character and they’ll accept it. I was trying to convey, Bram, that you are a two-sided person – as all the more interesting people in the world are! You have an inner as well as an outer life and Van Helsing is your inner self…
Michael: Just as the vampiress is part of your self as well.
Bram: Well, all this sounds very intriguing indeed, Michael, I’ll have to have a look at this play of yours. What’s it called by the way?
Michael: It’s called ‘There Are Such Things’.
Bram: Ah, another quote from ‘Dracula’!
Michael: Yes, when Van Helsing says ‘ there are such things as vampires!’ This was also a phrase picked up by the great Hungarian actor, Bela Lugosi who played Dracula both on stage and on film and I’ve written a play about him too!
Bram: Goodness, you have been busy, Michael!
Bela Lugosi as he appeared in the 1951 British revival tour of Dracula (Photo by Edith Sherman)
Michael: Lugosi used that phrase in his curtain speeches when he would say to the audience – (In the voice of BELA LUGOSI) ‘ So when you lie in bed tonight in your darkened room and these thoughts give you nightmares and you dread to look behind the curtains – just pull yourself together and remember that, after all, THERE ARE SUCH THINGS!’
Bram: This Lugosi sounds like a very sinister character indeed.
Michael: He was and one of your greatest interpreters. He would have two Red Cross nurses enter the auditorium before each performance in case somebody fainted and needed medical attention.
Bram: What a great idea – I wish I’d used it for my stage production of ‘Dracula’…except of course that my stage version did not get a performance.
Michael: I know. Sir Henry didn’t like it.
Bram: Well, we’ll draw a veil over that, Michael. It’s something I don’t like to talk about. Now tell me when your play will be performed?
(INTERVIEW TO BE CONTINUED)
You can visit Michael’s website at:
Read an extract from his adaptation of Dracula here:
His books on school drama are available from Amazon: