Monday, July 2, 2018

Adapting Dracula (Part Fifteen)

This is a series of posts sharing my ideas/considerations while getting ready to adapt Bram Stoker's novel Dracula for the live stage.

Fifteen: "Just Follow the Book"
Every time I (or probably anyone) polls multiple fans about Bram Stoker's most famous novel about how to adapt it, one answer pops up again and again.  "Just follow the book!"

Forgive the rant, but here is why that advise helps not one tiny bit.

Visually it may seem clearer by looking at the covers of different editions.  All those here belong to the same novel, word for word identical texts.  Yet look at them. One pretty clearer shows what looks like a walking corpse of an old man, decomposition delayed but hardly halted, a creature of shadows whose steps make whispery echoes in the long-abandoned hallways of that castle.  

Now examine the second.  Here we see a lithe, athletic form, hugged by cape in the wind, looking out across a brightly lit (presumably by moonlight) vista.  This Dracula stands straight rather than slouching.  He has hair, revealing a younger man.  One can imagine him speaking in a clear, resonate voice while the previous version looks as if his speech would sound guttural, gasping, maybe unpleasantly liquid.

In short, this Impaler appears the opposite of the previous rendition of the same character.  You may prefer one over the other.  Or not.  It hardly matters because no matter which you may like other fans--with exactly as much right--prefer one or the other.  Plus many more besides.

Bram Stoker's novel remains so complex, all its facets and characters so open to interpretation no one can honestly claim to have any final answer.  Or, put another way, lots of fans can and do posit their own, equally valid final answers.  

Is Van Helsing some kind of madman?  Or a genius?  Lucy--girlish innocent or would be slut?  I've seen Quincey portrayed as a stereotypical cowpoke as well as something akin to a hillbilly.  "Follow the novel" allows such decisions in part because Stoker really didn't differentiate between most these characters.  They aren't the hero, after all.  Dracula of course fills in the role of villain, but like Lord of the Rings the hero of this novel remains its setting--England.

Which proves extremely difficult to portray in a dramatic medium, hence the focus on the characters instead.  

To be continued

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