Reclaiming Dracula - new play tells the true horror story

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TV audiences may well be familiar with Belfast born actor Gerard McCarthy as the larger than life Kris Fisher in Hollyoaks.

But audiences who will come and see his new one man show - based on the original telling of Dracula by Bram Stoker - will be hard pushed to see him as anything other than a dynamic actor who can truly terrify on stage.

Gerard McCarthy stars in Jonathan Harker and Dracula

Gerard McCarthy stars in Jonathan Harker and Dracula

The play is one very close to his heart - as he has been behind the production from its inception when he approached writer Michael Poyner to script the show.

“It has been two years in the making - and I’ve been there every step, from editing the script, to casting the girls who appear on a prerecorded video, to designing the stage.

“It’s thrilling but it’s terrifying. It struck me about a week before we premiered that I had never been in a totally new production before - everything I had done had been done, and had gone down well. This was us - and we were putting ourselves out there.

“I panicked a bit, and wondered ‘what if this is crap and people don’t like it?’. It had never been tested anywhere before - but on opening night we got a standing ovation and the reaction has been above and beyond anything we could have expected.”

There is no doubt the world has developed a love affair with vampires over the past few years - and it is exactly the success of True Blood and Twilight which prompted Gerard to revisit the original ghastly tale.

“Vampires are so far removed now. Dracula was not stylised and sexy. He did not glow. The Dracula that Bram Stoker created was absolutely, and completely grotesque and horrific.

“The story is not romanticised in any way, it is as Bram Stoker wrote it. Every line in the play is from the book.”

Indeed the play is so grotesque in places that it has prompted a small number of people to walk out.

“We have recreated a seen from the book, where the three brides of Dracula are given a baby to eat. It is horrific, of course - but the scene was not an invention of ours. It is in the original text and there is nothing more stark to show an audience how horrifying Bram Stoker’s vampires were.

“They were merciless, evil creatures who wished to create race of super vampires and would let nothing stand in their way. They are as far removed as possible from Robert Patterson and his pale twinkling demeanour in the love story that is Twilight.”

As the play is a one man show, the scenes featuring the Brides of Dracula are pre-recorded, a nod, Gerard says to Hollywood and how it gave life to the Dracula story.

In the roles of the three brides are some top names in theatre and television. Rachel Tucker, who has played the lead role of Elpheba in Wicked, Jayne Wisener, who has appeared in The InBetweeners and Sweeney Todd and Kym Marsh from Coronation Street make up the gruesome threesome.

But Gerard takes on the rest of the roles himself. It’s no mean feat but not any more of a challenge than playing flamboyant Kris in Hollyoaks - a role he played for five years.

“People tend to be surprised when they meet me, as I’m so far removed from the character of Kris. Kris was the kind of character who did and said as he pleased and if people didn’t like him that was their problem not his.

“It was great, great fun to play the role because it was so different from my own personality. Sometimes I wish I was more like him - he had real attitude.”

Jonathan Harker and Dracula will play at the Millennium Forum on October 28 and 29 at the Millennium Forum. For tickets call the box office 02871264455 or visit www,millenniumforum.co.uk