About this Recording
NA311512 - STOKER, B.: Dracula (Abridged)
English 

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

Dracula

Bram Stoker was born in 1847 in Dublin, the third son of seven children. After having graduated with honors in mathematics from Trinity College, Dublin, he began to follow his interests in writing and the theater by taking an unpaid job as drama critic for the Dublin Mail. The turning point in his life came when he met the actor Henry Irving, at age twenty-nine. Stoker followed Irving to London and soon afterwards became Irving’s confidant and the actor-manager of his theater. He was to hold this job for twenty-eight years until Irving’s death.

Dracula was published in 1897. The novel is essentially a Gothic Romance, a type of writing that first appeared in England in the mid-18th century and continued in popularity well into the 19th century. Dracula has, however, managed to transcend its Gothic roots. What lifts Stoker’s work so much higher than that of other Gothic writers such as Walpole, Radcliffe or Maturin, is the way folk tale and history are used to create a sense that the work somehow verges on “truth”. As the critic Leonard Woolf has pointed out, this sense of something that has actually happened this “texture of something long known” is achieved through the employment of three crucial devices.

 

The first of these was authentic vampire folklore. Stoker probably got this from one of the many popular and sensational travel books of his day. The second major influence in the book is that of the career of the historical  figure of Vlad Tepes or Vlad, The Impaler. It was in the British Museum that Stoker came upon his prototype. Vlad Tepes, known as Dracula, was the ruler of Wallachia between 1456 and 1462, an area which borders the Ottoman Empire in the South, the Black Sea in the East, and Moldavia and Transylvania in the North. The Romanians regarded Vlad Tepes as a good king, and still do — he lead the anti-Ottoman crusade and regained the country’s independence from Turkish influence — but he is thought of by most as one of Europe’s most brutal tyrants. On the occasion of his St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre he is said to have impaled over 30,000     prisoners. “Dracul” meant “devil” (as it still does in Romanian today),    and also “dragon”. When Vlad Tepes’ father was awarded the Order of the Dragon by the Holy Roman Empire, he acquired the nickname “Dracul”. His son therefore, Vlad Tepes, became known as “Dracula”, i.e. “son of the dragon”, or “son of the devil”. In many languages “devil” and “vampire” are interchangeable, and it is probably due to this that Dracula became associated with vampirism. So the legend was born.

 

Taking his cue from this myth, that men with monstrous souls become vampires, Stoker had found exactly the man on which to model his Prince of Darkness. Lastly, Stoker found a remote and mysterious location in  which the man and the story, history and fiction, could be combined. This   of course was Transylvania or “The Land beyond the Forest”. He also  tapped straight into the public morbidity of the time — when he started writing Dracula, Jack the Ripper was, with the help of the press, slaughtering his way to immortal fame.

On the occasion of Dracula’s publication, Charlotte Stoker wrote a letter  to her son, which began: “My dear, (Dracula) is splendid, a thousand miles beyond anything you have written before, and I feel certain will place you very high in the writers of the day...No book since Mrs. Shelley’s Frankenstein or indeed any other at all has come near yours in originality, or terror — “. Such a view has been echoed thousands of times over the last hundred years. Stoker created a work, which places the extraordinary in a careful historical and geographical context; the distinctions between  fact and fiction are disturbed as we enter a narrative, which reads like    history, indeed a series of seemingly reliable personal histories, and which we are unable to dismiss as “only a story”.

 

Notes by Heather Godwin

 

Dracula — Cast

 

Dr. Van Helsing       Brian Cox

Count Dracula          Heathcote Williams

Jonathan Harker      Dermot Kerrigan

Mina Harker  Siri O’Neal

Dr. John Seward      Michael Gould

Lucy Westenra         Polly Hayes

Arthur Holmwood    Daniel Philpott

Renfield/Quincey Morris/Solicitor Matthew Warburton

Old Lady/Sister Agatha/Mrs. Westenra   Elaine Claxton

Mr. Hawkins/Captain Donelson/Driver    Peter Yapp

Correspondent/J. Smollett Benjamin Soames

Girl 2/Mother Anna Britten

Girl 1  Laura Paton

Narrator         Neville Jason

 

Special thanks to Andrew Jack, Nenad Vekic and Heathcote Williams for

dialect coaching.

 

 

About the Cast

 

BRIAN COX is one of Britain’s leading actors and directors,

having won two Olivier Awards for his roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre. His

television and film work is equally varied, and includes Rob Roy, Braveheart, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Hidden Agenda. He is now increasingly active as a director.

 

HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS poet, playwright and actor, is best

known for his extended poems on environmental subjects:

Whale Nation, Falling for a Dolphin, Sacred Elephant and Autogeddon. His plays have also won acclaim, notably AC/DC and Hancock’s Last Half Hour. As an actor he has been equally versatile — taking memorable roles in Orlando, Wish You Were Here, The Odyssey and Derek Jarman’s The Tempest, in which he played Prospero. Whale Nation and Sacred Elephant are also available on Naxos AudioBooks, read by Heathcote Williams.

 

DERMOT KERRIGAN trained at LAMDA and has since appeared in much Shakespearean theater including: Richard II at the Royal Exchange, Manchester; Romeo and Juliet (television); with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, as well as modern plays at The Royal Court and extensive touring with Shared Experience.

 

SIRI O’NEAL has appeared on stage across Britain in various roles including Jean in The Entertainer, Hilde in The Master Builder, and Tess in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. She has been seen on television in Sharpe’s Battle, The Cloning of Joanna May and Masterclass and her film credits include Waterland and The Rachel Papers.

 

MICHAEL GOULD has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company in The Phoenician Women, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and also for the Birmingham Rep, the Manchester Royal Exchange and Salisbury Playhouse. His film credits include Suspicious and Frankenstein.

 

POLLY HAYES trained at LAMDA. Since then she has been active in theater across Britain, and her parts have included Marianne in The Dramatist, Rosalind in As You Like It, Nina in The Seagull and Marianne in Tartuffe. She has worked extensively on both radio and television in the UK.

 

DANIEL PHILPOTT trained at LAMDA and, after success in the prestigious Carleton Hobbs Award for Radio Drama, has been prolific in BBC Radio and the Spoken Word industry. His theater work includes numerous productions on the London fringe.


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