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Lucy Askew, creative producer at site-specific theatre company, Creation Theatre, tells Run Riot about Dracula’s homecoming

[Photo Credit: Richard Budd]

Almost a year ago we opened our site-specific production of Dracula in The Norrington Room of Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford. For those unfamiliar with Blackwell’s you’d be forgiven for imagining a typical bookshop, something rather odd and small scale. It’s hard to conceive any form of theatrical production taking place in a bookshop. However, The Norrington Room though is book selling on a whole other scale.  With 5km of shelving it is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single selling space. In nine years over 27,000 people have been to see our work and last year one of them was Phillip Marshall Director of The London Library, London’s most historic lending libraries. We weren’t aware he was in the audience and afterwards when the show’s Director Helen Tennison received an email asking us if we might be interested in staging Dracula in London I had no idea quite how perfect a venue it would be for this production.

 

[Photo Credit: Richard Budd]

Whilst any library can be an exciting space for Creation’s work, after-all we specialise in bringing well loved novels to the stage, prior experience of shows we’ve taken into them has taught me how painfully difficult getting an audience in can be.  At the risk of revealing my shameful lack of knowledge about The London Library and what is a very well-established cultural institution, I was imagining a standard civic library.  Turning up at the London Library to scout the venue, was a lesson in prior conceptions. How wrong could I have been. Our first visit there might be the most exciting visit to any building I have ever made, wood panelling, beautiful leather-bound books in abundance, oil paintings of famous authors lining the stairs (who were all members), a room dedicated to every copy of The Times ever printed and a famous author hidden round nearly every corner.

 

[Photo Credit: Richard Budd]

It was only following that visit that the full enormity of The London Library as a venue for Dracula was discovered. Phillip tasked his team with looking into what information they had on Bram Stoker’s membership.  The libraries Development Director Phillip Spedding then made the most amazing discoveries. He located the books Stoker had borrowed whilst writing Dracula and thrillingly discovered pencil marks in the margins in Stokers hand writing. These were clearly the books he had used whilst researching the book! As site specific theatre producers this really does feel like a once in a lifetime opportunity, staging Dracula surrounded by the very bookshelves and books that Stoker once held, read and took inspiration from.

 

[Photo Credit: Richard Budd]

Much like performing in Blackwell’s, turning a library into a theatre is not the easiest endeavour. Access to the space is limited causing no end of challenges for how we transpose a highly visual show with lots incredible video design by Eva Auster and Sound design by Matt Eaton. When you stand amongst the shelves though there is absolutely no doubt that it is an enormous privilege to get to bring Stoker’s story alive in this location. The London Library staging of this play feels very much like Dracula’s home coming.

 

Dracula Trailer from Creation Theatre on Vimeo.

Creation Theatre
'Dracula'
Sat 2 Feb - Sun 3 Mar
at The London Library
Info and Tickets: creationtheatre.co.uk