Dracula by Bram Stoker

Adapted and dramatised by Liz Lochhead, with Ellie Beaven, Rebecca Callard, Tom Hiddleston and David Suchet

There is no denying the lasting power of Bram Stoker’s tale of the evil that is Count Dracula. The Count’s plan to move from his homeland in Transylvania to England and to become a member of Victorian English aristocracy is familiar through film and television and displays, perhaps, the cultural gulf between Eastern Europe and Western Europe still evident today.

Like many literary classics, few people in the twenty-first century have the time and patience to read the original, preferring to digest others’ versions and adaptations. Appearing in print in 1897, Stoker’s prose is not the greatest writing of the time from the pen of an Irishman, but it is better than that of some more contemporary authors who write tales of the Un-dead (Stoker’s original title for the novel).

Noteworthy is the epistolary method of story-telling, using letters and diaries, which works exceptionally well given the story-line: Jonathan Harker is confined in the Count’s castle and, unable to send or receive letters, keeps a written account of his journey and of his time with the Count. The exchange of letters between the other characters, ships’ logs and newspaper clippings drive the story on and perhaps reveal more about the protagonists’ inner thoughts than might more conventional writing.

It also make Dracula perfect for radio, and this BBC World Service dramatisation, judiciously abridged and adapted for the medium, is a rare triumph and well worth two hours of anyone’s time. Stereo makes the whole thing come very much alive (if that isn’t too great an irony) and the performances are exemplary. David Suchet’s Dracula is spine-chilling, mixing aristocratic disdain with psychopathic superciliousness. Ellie Beaven (Mina) and Rebecca Callard (Lucy) provide just the right amount of flirtatiousness and suppressed eroticism, and Tom Hiddleston (Jonathan Harker) is perfect as the straight-laced and hugely naive country solicitor.

Whilst the lengthy original certainly repays perseverance, the BBC’s Dracula provides an intense and very palpable sense of menace in the figure of one of the first stalkers in literature and his merciless pursuit of victims to feed his insatiable appetites.


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