Fangs for the memories: Jonathan Goddard as Count Dracula. Photograph: Mark Bruce Company

American TV show True Blood and the phenomenally successful Twilight fantasy saga have in recent years served as an introduction for many to the gothic vampire myths that seem to be forever reinventing themselves in one medium or another.

Who of a slightly older generation does not remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and are there still people around who recall the hysteria about the so-called Highgate Vampire in the 1970s?

Frankly the list of vampire-related fads is endless.

So given the public’s perennial lusting after bloodsucking fiends, now would seem as good a time as any to stage an innovative dance theatre production of Dracula, and the atmospheric surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall in Shadwell would seem to be the perfect venue for this.

Not to mention that October means Halloween and autumnal ghouls and spectres.

“At the end of the day, so much of the book is about sex,” says director Mark Bruce, whose Mark Bruce Company has endeavoured to stay (relatively) loyal to the original Victorian-era novel by Bram Stoker – more than can be said for some Hollywood film versions.

“It’s such a strange, elusive book. There is something of the superstitious dark fairy tale about it,” says Mr Bruce.

“To me the story is less interesting when it’s modernised. I’ve set this version in Victorian times when there was all this taboo, and I think the story makes the most sense in that context.

“Nowadays we’re liberated, so it’s not so shocking anymore, but in the book there is a scene in which Mina Harker drinks Count Dracula’s blood, and at the time that would have been seen as an outrageous thing to write.”

A set built of wrought iron adds to the Victorian feel, while the eclectic soundtrack includes music from Bach and Mozart as well as contemporary classical composers like György Ligeti, who appropriately enough was born in Transylvania.

What’s more, this low-fi Dracula eschews digital wizardry in favour of what Bruce calls “traditional tricks”.

The director says that while this Dracula might not fit neatly into the conventional horror category, it contains “moments of disturbing intensity”.

The company has purchased generous quantities of good quality fake blood, and Mr Bruce says “there will be blood where blood is needed”, adding: “I hope the show gets under people’s skin.”

Of Wilton’s, reputed to be the oldest surviving music hall in the world, Mr Bruce says: “You walk into the place and you sense it’s full of ghosts. It’s perfect.”

The East End itself is an appropriate location because of its associations with the darkest aspects of Victorian London – the poverty condemned by writers like Charles Dickens and the vice exposed most notably, and bloodily, by the Whitechapel murders.

The show’s cast includes Jonathan Goddard, described by The Observer as “Britain’s finest male contemporary dancer”, who plays the infamous Count whose sinister ambitions tear at the heart of an outwardly chaste and respectable society.

Dracula is on at Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, E1 8JB, until 2 November

wiltons.org.uk 

 

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