REVIEW: Dracula, starring James Gaddas

Brian Butler April 7, 2022

Right from his energetic entrance to a lectern, Corrie, Hollyoaks and Bad Girls tv star James Gaddas signals we’re in for a treat. As he laconically points out, most of us know the story of Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror tale Dracula, without actually having read the book.

But we’re not in for yet another revamping (sorry) of the vampire tale. Oh, no; James has different plans for our evening. For he has discovered Stoker’s original version of the story, which the publishers refused, preferring the softer, more plausible version we know.

And James tells us that in a break from soaps stardom, he was enlisted to front a tv series about the real-Iife Dracula, being convinced that the character was no work of idle fiction. It’s a format that gets very complicated as the night wears on – as James weaves his narratuve of his tv crew’s journey to the supposed Dracula’s Castle, and episodes from the now-revealed journal on which Stoker based his book.

It’s no mean feat for the actor as he slips from himself, to contemporary people and historical and fictional characters, sometimes half-way through a sentence. As he tells us: “ something’s coming; something you didn’t sign up for”. And so with towering evidence boards behind him, and a stage littered with Dracula memorabilia, he proceeds on what in the past and present proves to be a deadly journey.

The tv project is suddenly abandoned when the producer/director falls mysteriously to her death at the ill-fated castle. And one by one the other crew members all die, leaving James as the only survivor – truly the vampire’s curse.

I can’t possibly reveal the startling ending to you, but suffice to say, you probably wouldn’t see it coming in this tale of total obsession with the Dracula legend. Gaddas commands the stage with eleoqunce, energy, and a wonderful variety of shades of light and dark in the 15 characterisations he portrays.

He’s aided hugely by clear, crisp direction from Pip Minnithorpe, a fabulous soundscape from Jeremy Swift, and shocking illusions from John Bulleid. But it’s James Gaddas’ commanding presence that makes this an outstanding gob-smacking 5-star piece of theatre.

The show was at Brighton Theatre Royal and is coming to the end of a UK tour, but you can catch it in Crawley on 10 April –