Student Theatre: Dracula

Upcoming is the Student Theatre at Glasgow Mainstage show, Liz Lochead’s Dracula, based on the gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker. So, to ensure you all got the scoop, I sat down with the Director, Hanni Shinton, so see what was what.

First and foremost, what can you tell us about the Show itself?

Hanni: Well, It’s Liz Lochead’s Dracula, which I think is a very interesting of Bram Stoker’s. She wrote it in the 80’s and it’s definitely a different production in the fact that, although Dracula’s the namesake, he’s not the main focus of the play, he’s definitely pushed to the back of the action, coming in at only key points, so by doing that it allows focus to be on the humans and to look at how Dracula, how this evil, can affect humans, particularly women, in different ways.

And what drew you to this particular show, this particular interpretation of the classic story?

Hanni: I’ve always said I’d direct if I found a play and I’d never found a play and I been reading loads and loads of plays thinking ‘I could do this’ or ‘I could do this’ and then I came across this and I like Liz Lochead, I know she’s a great writer and so I started reading it and I think by the time I reached the end of the first half, I’d realised that, in my head, I’d seen everything, like onstage, it wasn’t like reading a book, it was that I’d actually seen it onstage and I got to the end and was like; ‘this is a play I could direct’. I understood the play, I understood what she was trying to get at and I absolutely loved each and every one of the characters, there wasn’t a character which I felt lacked anything, there wasn’t a character that didn’t have a different dimension to it. And as an actor, in STaG particularly, I felt that sometimes there’s been a lack of really strong characters, for both males and females together onstage. So, from that respect, I felt it was really important to put on. Something slightly different about it is opportunity to push things in a grander scale, not stay safe, which I think we’ve done a couple of times. That and obviously the strength of the female characters, they are definitely the main thing that drew me in.

You mentioned the strength of the characters, what is it you can tell us about the characters and, by that extent, the cast?

Hanni: well, that just makes me smile, because they are a fantastic cast. So, there’s not a single character that is like a side lined, simpering female and there’s no classic heroes in the men, each male character has something good about them and then they’ve got a flaw and the flaws are very human, for instance Jonathan, who everyone thinks is the main hero, is actually a bit of a lady’s man and has a wandering eye. He isn’t quite as string as the other characters. We have a joke in the cast, you know the ‘test for feminism’, if a female can be replaced by a sexy lamp, Jonathan’s our sexy lamp, he could easily be replaced with a sexy lamp. But that doesn’t mean that his character doesn’t feel things, there is strength and it is a difficult character. The girls have to change, Lucy has to change so much and finding a way to do that while still keeping humanity and she changes and get possessed and becomes a vampire. Mina as well, has to focus so much on holding everything in and then occasionally letting things out and eventually rising up and being strong. Then of course there’s mad Renfeild, who is the tragic hero of the [play, which is often overlooked in some productions of this play. So, it’s working with him to make sure the right lines are heard, to ensure that the audience feel for him, rather than just discarding him as a madman. So each character has so much, which means that every rehearsal, there’s so much to be working on and this cast has completely embraced that from the first rehearsal, talking about their characters and it’s been so nice to watch from a distance, to watch them develop and occasionally they’ll doubt themselves and I just wish they could come out of their heads and sit in mine and see the changes that they’ve done and see what still they can do and I’m so excited for them to do this for themselves and to come offstage and be proud of themselves because they’re absolutely incredible.

And what about you, what has been your experience directing this show?

Hanni: It’s been very good, it’s been different, it’s been exhausting. I don’t think I quite anticipated how exhausting, but it’s been such a good experience so far, it’s been really rewarding to see what’s in your head come out and some days I’m like ‘no, this isn’t what I had in mind, but its better’, because they’ll take something, the moments when they just get it and it’s so rewarding for me, because this my baby and its incredible to see it come to life. It’s something I didn’t realise, I didn’t really realise before that, when you’re directing, particularly from an acting standpoint, I’m acting every single part with them in my head. So, it’s not sitting, looking, going ‘yeah, yeah…’ I’m actually thinking, all the time about what this person’s doing, what that persons doing, could they do it a little bit more like this and mentally it’s just exhausting, particularly exhausting as I can’t sit still. But I think the main thing is just rewarding, it’s not stressful, I’ve never been stressed with it, which is worrying me, that I’m not stressed, but I think that’s just because I’ve got such a good team with me who allow me to be as active as I want to be. Its definitely a good experience, I definitely have really, really enjoyed it.

And why do you believe people should come and see this show, what sets it apart?

Hanni: Well, setting it apart from things that STaG have done in the past is; we’re making it bigger there’s more set behind it, we’re doing something new, where making a massive set piece which should be incredible. We’ve got so many dedicated team members involved in it. And the play itself, it tackles themes like sex and relationships, which haven’t been seen before in STaG, it pushes the boundaries a little bit further. It’s not crazy, it’s not gaudy, I’ve made sure that when it’s there, it’s there for a reason. But it is challenging, what we see, it’s not a safe play, it’s not a play you just sit and watch and go ‘oh, that was nice’, it gets you tense, they build such an atmosphere onstage that you’re sitting there tense and you’re wanting it for them, even in rehearsals, I sit on the edge of my seat because you want it and then it breaks and each character is moving at a different pace and when they have moments where they are together and it’s a breath and then it all comes back and I think what they have done sands what the team are doing, they’re working so hard and pushing so much, I don’t think there’s a weak link in this play and I think acting wise, it’s going to be ridiculously good, set wise, themes wise, we’ve not done this and just think its going to be so special.

Anything final you want to say about this piece; times, tickets, dates, venue?

Hanni: It’s the 4th-6th of December in the Art school, doors at 7 for a 7.30 start. Tickets can be found on Ticketsource for STaG or get us on the Facebook page ‘STaG Presents: Liz Lochead’s Dracula’. Also, can I say thank you to Goose (Goose Masondo, the Assistant Director) for putting up with me, translating me and letting me be me.

Questions by Michael Cartledge

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