Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Danny Wainwright: Dracula

By | Published on Wednesday 9 November 2016


If you were up in Edinburgh this past summer, you might have seen Let Them Call It Mischief’s Fringe production of ‘Dracula’, a funny and irreverent take on the classic vampire tale. If you weren’t, and therefore missed it, then you are in luck, because this month sees a run of the the show at the King’s Head Theatre.
To find out more about the play, and the creatives behind it, I had a chat with Danny Wainwright, company co-founder, director, and co-writer.

CM: I know pretty much everyone knows the story of ‘Dracula’, so you don’t really need to tell us what it’s about. Well, maybe a short summing up of the narrative, and an idea of how close the story line is to Bram Stoker’s original?
DW: Everyone knows the story of ‘Dracula’ but only from one side. It’s always told from the point of view of the supposed ‘victors’ Van Helsing and Harker. But what if you hear the story from Dracula’s point of view as well? Maybe there’s more than meets the eye. Perhaps there’s always been an inherent prejudice in the way the story has been told and this Dracula fella isn’t quite as bad as everyone makes out. Narratively, it’s pretty close to Bram Stoker’s original story, but not how you’ve seen it before!

CM: Hmm, that sounded like a pretty serious question, and this isn’t a serious sort of a play is it? Can you give us an idea of what sort of production this, and what sort of humour to expect?
DW: This is a silly show. We’re taking on a few pretty meaty themes and the best way we know to bring them out in the open is to laugh at them. Hopefully there’s something in there for everyone. There’s some pretty clever word play (if I do say so myself!) but people fall over too! We should probably have a prize for the person who can spot the most references in the show. There are lots!

CM: As a company, you seem keen on creating shows inspired by classic texts. What draws you to them…?
DW: I think this is probably because of my fascination with great stories, even back when I was pretty young. Dickens creates fantastical worlds out of dreary Victorian London; Conan Doyle imagined the world’s greatest detective who had superhuman powers of perception. Who wouldn’t want to be part of their worlds and try and add something a bit different to them?

CM: What made you choose ‘Dracula’ on this occasion?
DW: Originally, it was suggested to me by my utterly brilliant LD Tom Kinney in a pub in Hackney while we were waiting for someone or for a meeting or something. I’ve forgotten what we were waiting for, but Tom thought that maybe Dracula might be quite fun. I think he wanted to use a laser or projector… we didn’t use either in the end, but he did get his suggestion.

When I read it, Donald Trump had just started spouting his bile and I saw so many parallels between him and the ‘establishment’ figures in Dracula – I just thought it was too good an opportunity not to write it!

CM: You are a co-writer on the project as well as directing. Does that make you extra stressed? Do the two roles sit easily together?
DW: Writing with Daniel Hallissey is an absolute pleasure so that takes most of the stress out of things. He loves making sure the structure and the flow is just right, and then I interrupt and spoil things by trying to crowbar a joke in. I think when we wrote this, we had a directorial vision in mind and Daniel occasionally tries to give me directing notes which I try to ignore, but they’re usually bang on. It’s great not having to compromise with the writer, and we’re really not precious about the script once the actors have got hold of it. A lot of funny lines came from the actors. If they’re better than what we thought of, they’re in!

CM: You had a great run in Edinburgh this summer. Have you made any changes to the show since then?
DW: Edinburgh was great and the run went really well. Not a lot has changed with the show. A few bits here and there, but not much. Well.. we had to reblock the whole thing as the King’s Head is absolutely nothing like the Pleasance stage wise… but apart from that…

CM: Can you tell me a bit about Let Them Call It Mischief? Are you Ben Jonson fans? What made you decide to make a company?
DW: We started LTCIM originally because we wanted to bring back forgotten classics about London to a London audience. Ben Jonson’s ‘The Achemist’ was first on the list. I’m a massive Elizabethan/Jacobean geek and sometimes feel that there’s one bloke who gets all the limelight. Jonson’s plays are spectacular and funny and satirical and dark, which attracted us to them. It’s lovely that you’ve asked that question because almost no one has any idea that our name is a little nod to Jonson!

CM: Have there been any particular highlights thus far?
DW: The whole thing continues to be a highlight for me – seeing the company grow and working with some of the same people over the years and all getting better together. It’s really gratifying for me that actors and creatives want to come back and work for the company again and again, and they are amazing every time they do. I really feel that as the company gets bigger, we’re gathering a team of hugely talented and lovely people to keep building with us.

CM: What aims and ambitions does the company have for the future?
DW: I should imagine we’ll be running the West End by Christmas… Back in the real world, we’ve got a new show for the spring in early development now, we’re looking at touring possibilities for ‘Dracula’ and other shows, and we’re looking for some more investment to keep growing and creating clever, funny theatre. In the short term, I just hope that people will come and be entertained by a 120 year old story given a kick up the backside and spot the Destiny’s Child lyrics carefully hidden within!

‘Dracula’ is on at the King’s Head Theatre from 9-26 November. See the venue website here to book your tickets.

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Photo: Heather Pasfield