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Andrew Quick & Pete Brooks discuss the ideas behind Dracula: The Untold Story

29th April 2021 by Morven Macbeth

Co-Artistic Directors of imitating the dog Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks in conversation about why the company are taking on this particular novel, at this particular time.

Pete: ‘Because we have children, we’re very concerned by the future. And our concern for the future is driven by our understanding of the past. And one of the things I think we’ve been very engaged by is why evil happens, why bad things happen. Because we don’t want bad things to happen to our children. So I think our work has been driven by an attempt to analyse how we might prevent the bad things. And Dracula, in a very straight forward way, is a way of talking about evil. We’re using it as a metaphor for the way in which evil erupts in history.

Andrew: Yes, I was thinking about this. Going back to the last few shows, and maybe even further than that, but thinking about Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s notion of ‘the horror, the horror’, and what constitutes that which we can’t always explain in perfect, rational ways. And it feels like Dracula is a weirdly natural step in a series of pieces that we’ve made. You think about Heart of Darkness, Night of the Living Dead – Remix, and now Dracula, and again we’re taking a very particular angle on it. The focus in our version will be Mina Harker. Dracula is definitely there, but it’s Mina’s story we follow. It’s the trauma of her encounter with Dracula and how she lives with it that we explore, as she journeys through the rest of her life. We don’t want to give too much away here of course.

Pete: No, of course. We are reading a lot of (political theorist) Hannah Arendt, and in a way her philosophical question was why does evil happen? Why do bad things happen?

Andrew: Yes, and she had two really great theories, didn’t she? The first was the theory that evil is hidden, that it kind of hides in places where you can’t discover it, which she called ‘radical evil’ after Kant. And then suddenly with the Nazis, evil wasn’t hidden, it was completely out front and displayed and ideologised. And that was why she came up with the idea of the banality of evil. That it was everywhere, pervasive.

Pete: I think this show is very much within the canon of our work, as it asks questions about how one behaves, why people behave badly, the ways in which we justify why people behave badly.

Andrew: Our version of Dracula is exploring a turning point of how an old notion of evil confronts modernity. So it’s almost two worlds clashing at the end of the 19th century. And what we’re saying is that Dracula disappears in one sense, and then reappears as something else in the 20th century. That’s what we’re exploring. The 19th century notion of evil is one of monstrosity or a kind of mysticism…

Pete: Yes, and in the 20th century we see the evil of bureaucracy emerging. And that follows on from Heart of Darkness, where we were exploring the evil of colonialism and the emerging global bureaucracy that fueled it.  You know, the banality of evil that comes from economically driven inhumanity.

Andrew: We saw the colonisation of Africa as a terrible rehearsal for what was to take place in Europe and indeed the rest of the world in the twentieth century.  And although we traverse the centuries in Dracula, nineteenth and twentieth, a great deal of the show spans the years 1900 – 1965.

Pete: It’s Mina’s journey across these decades, haunted by her encounter with Dracula and the new types of evil she meets after his apparent death.

Andrew: We’re making it sound very heavy, but you know, it should be exciting for the audience. These are serious themes, if you like, but the form will be choppy, moving across different genres, film, documentary, graphic novel, a real rollercoaster of a ride. We’re storytellers and we think this is one hell of a tale.  Yes it’s a philosophical mediation in one sense, but we are theatre makers first and foremost. So, yes, it will be fun, weirdly, for the audience. It will be audacious, put it that way.

Pete: Yeah, that’s part of the problem isn’t it really, that evil’s always fun.

Andrew: It’s like Milton. We all love the devil. Paradise Lost, you know.

Pete: Yeah, we all love Satan,

Andrew: Is it that ‘The Devil has all the best tunes’, isn’t that the phrase?

Pete: Yeah, that’s a good line. Who came up with that one?

Andrew: I don’t know, it certainly wasn’t me.

Pete: It was probably the Devil.’

April 2021

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