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Bath University Student Theatre (BUST) is kicking this year off with a production of Liz Lochhead’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s celebrated novel, ‘Dracula’. The shows will take place on October 8th through 10th at Bath University’s recently re-opened Arts Lecture Theatre, tailored to suit the needs of amateur dramatics.
The theatre group, which has received several awards and nominations in the past – winning ‘Best Overall Society’ in 2012 and ‘Best Society Event’ in 2012 and 2013 – have taken this opportunity to explore the genre of supernatural horror, in an bid to wow the audience with an emotional and technically mind-blowing experience.

The show’s director, Phaedra Florou, has been an active member of the group for over 2 years and has never failed to eagerly take any new opportunity. So far, she has participated in more than five performances (including “The Miracle Worker” and “The Christmas Carol”), produced shows, run workshops, and is now the elected Show Coordinator of the society itself. ‘Dracula’ is her directing debut.

The story follows a young solicitor, Jonathan Harker, as he travels to Hungary, where he expects to carry out some routine business with an enigmatic aristocrat. He is mistaken. Count Dracula is of course more than he appears, and harbours sinister intentions for Harker’s wife-to-be, Mina, and her sister Lucy. Harker finds himself locked in conflict with an ancient evil, bent on enslaving those he holds dear. Can he, with the help of his friend Dr. Seward and the powerful Van Helsing, stop Dracula before he unleashes his terror on one and all?

The play’s assistant director, Naomi Holdaway, who is relatively new to BUST but has experience in musical theatre, has expressed her excitement in a recent interview: 

“I feel so fortunate to be working with a cast that is full of so much talent and drive on a theatre piece both technically challenging as well as so open to creative interpretation.”

Phaedra, the director, added that:

 “In the time I have been a member of the society I have seen it excel in comedies and tragedies, but horror, for some reason, seems to remain untouched as a genre. I suppose it is a difficult one; it tends to be hit and miss. Still, I thought I’d take on the challenge. ‘Dracula’ is a classic horror story loved by many and it deserves to be brought to the stage not as a comedy or musical, but as the terrifying tale it was always meant to be. Our vision for the play is, I admit, rather ambitious. We are working with a great team of technical experts and are planning on experimenting with lighting, sounds, dry ice, and even pyrotechnics, among other effects, to bring a profound emotional experience to the audience. ”

It has now been a week since the rehearsal process begun, and the production team and cast are enjoying the show’s unique challenges. Adriano Howlett, a member of the cast, has performed in many BUST plays in the past and commented that:

 “The script is a little more dark and intense than some of the shows we’ve put on in recent years, which is actually a lot of fun. Our last horror-themed play was ‘Dinner with Frankenstein’ for Bath Fringe, and that was a comedy farce, so we expected to be laughing a lot in rehearsals. ‘Dracula’ has much darker themes – I play a mistreated paranoid schizophrenic, for example – but we still find a lot to giggle about. Phaedra’s got us doing things like ‘cuddle workshops’ as preparation, so I’ve been enjoying the dichotomy.”  

So far, the show has received positive attention from many sides, including local charity Bath Mind, the cause of whom the ‘Dracula’ team has decided to support. Director, Phaedra, has stated: 

“We are all very excited to take the opportunity to fundraise for a good cause. As a psychology student, I have always been interested in mental illness and how it affects people. In the play, which is partly set in a mental asylum with horrible conditions, patients deteriorate and feel isolated. Luckily, today, things don’t have to be that way.” 

It is worth noting that the final show date, the 10th of October, aptly coincides with the World Mental Health Day.

So it seems that ‘Dracula’ is an ambitious but promising production. It will be hosted in a new building with a large theatre and stage, which will accommodate technical innovation and creativity. It is a seldom-touched genre, which has forced director and cast to push beyond their comfort zones and challenge themselves.

Will Bath University Student Theatre live up to the challenge? Only one way to find out…

‘Dracula’ will be showing on the 8th, 9th and 10th October 2015 at the Arts Lecture Theatre in the Edge, the new University of Bath building (BA2 7AY) starting at 7.30pm.  

To purchase tickets please access the ICIA website: https://www.icia.org.uk/student/whats-on/ or contact the box office at 01225 386777.