All-women stage version of Dracula to honour Scottish origins of classic gothic horror tale

Aberdeenshire will stake a new claim as the home of Dracula under plans to relocate the classic Gothic horror story there for a new stage version with an all-women cast.

The National Theatre of Scotland’s adaptation of the 125-year-old novel, which was partly written on the Aberdeenshire coastline by Bram Stoker, will be set in a psychiatric hospital.

Elgin-born playright Morna Pearson has promised a “bold retelling” of Dracula, which will be set in 1897, the year the original novel was published, and feature an an all-women and non-binary ensemble.

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A co-production with His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, an all-women and non-binary ensemble will focus on a new arrival at the psychiatric hospital, Mina Murray, who tells her fellow patients of her terrifying encounters with Dracula.

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The show will premiere at His Majesty’s in September before touring to Glasgow, Stirling, Inverness, Dundee, Edinburgh and Coventry.

An official announcement from NTS states: “Set in a psychiatric hospital in Aberdeenshire in 1897, this unique Scottish adaptation places the character of Mina Murray at the centre of the action.

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“Mina seeks refuge at the hospital to escape the horrors she has experienced, retelling her encounters with the most terrifying of beasts: Dracula. Mina is joined by the patients, an all-women and non-binary ensemble, and together they tell a unique version of Bram Stoker’s legendary tale.

“We are transported to a world where immortality and ultimate power is possible, even for women - but with terrible consequences.

Writer Morna Pearson is adapting Bram Stoker's iconic horror story Dracula for the National Theatre of Scotland

“Dracula is dripping with Morna Pearson’s trademark humour, theatricality, and her taste for the strange, the shocking and the grotesque. The production celebrates the novel’s gothic horror origins while, in a radical twist, allows audiences to view the story through the eyes of Mina and the patients.

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“The production features atmospheric, gothic-inspired set and costumes designed by Kenneth MacLeod and a dark, distinctive score from composer Benji Bower."

The 125th anniversary of Stoker’s novel this year has already inspired the launch of a new “Festival of Darkness” in Aberdeenshire, where the author travelled to from his home in London to holiday in Port Erroll, near Cruden Bay and Slains Castle, which provided the inspiration for Dracula’s Castle.

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Pearson said: “I was excited to adapt Dracula and place it in the familiar setting of the north-east, the place where my writing feels at home. I wanted to examine themes of our times – fear, trauma, and powerlessness – in ways the horror genre lends itself to.

Aberdeenshire's rugged coastline is said to have helped inspire Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Picture: VisitScotland/Damien Shields

“With Stoker drawing influence from Cruden Bay, it felt appropriate to relocate the narrative to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, exploring the area and characters I find most inspirational.

“There is room for more horror and stories from the north-east in theatre, so I am thrilled that my first large-scale production is a bold retelling of Dracula set there.”Ben Torrie, director of programming and creative projects at Aberdeen Performing Arts, which runs His Majesty’s Theatre, said: “Given Bram Stoker’s connections to and love of the region, the north-east of Scotland is the perfect setting for this stunning retelling of Dracula, and a collaboration between Aberdeen Performing Arts and the National Theatre of Scotland is the perfect way of bringing it to the stage.”

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