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Inverness performances showcase actress getting her teeth into Dracula role

By Margaret Chrystall

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Actress Liz Kettle transforming herself into Dracula for the new show coming to Eden Court this week gave herself a lot more to do than popping on special talons.

Liz Kettle as Dracula in the play at Eden Court until Saturday. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
Liz Kettle as Dracula in the play at Eden Court until Saturday. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

"Protect your loved ains fae the claws o’ a beast …” one of the lines goes in the Doric dialect used by Elgin writer Morna Pearson in her version of the Dracula story, moved to the North East of Scotland.

Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning is set in a women’s psychiatric hospital in Aberdeenshire in 1897 with an all-female and non-binary cast.

It was when Liz Kettle went to Slains Castle near Cruden Bay – a place that had supposedly inspired Bram Stoker, the original writer of the Dracula story – that she felt she had come home, as the character.

She said: “I didn’t get to Cruden Bay till we got up there for the Aberdeen dates.

“I spent an afternoon going round Slains Castle going ‘Ha! home!’ and it’s hardly surprising the location inspired a Transylvanian castle with its isolation and grandeur.

“My God, it’s amazing. I just sat and listened to the seagulls and the waves crashing and thought about the Demeter, the ship in the story with Dracula on it, heading for the coast. It has been great to have that visual image in my head!”

But it was in London while she was appearing in Shakespeare’s Richard III, that Liz was invited to do an audition on Zoom to play Dracula.

“I was asked to read a story online and I dashed to the nearest second-hand bookshop and the first book I saw was a collection of gothic stories from the 19th century translated from French to English. I came across a story about an actor who is taken over by this fanged, clawed old stranger in the wings of a theatre – very exciting.

“Then I discovered a blue plaque marking where the Dracula writer Bram Stoker was born, just round the corner from where I was working, but I had literally never noticed it before I was invited to audition!”

Liz Kettle transforms into Dracula – a character out for blood. Picture: Pete Dibdin
Liz Kettle transforms into Dracula – a character out for blood. Picture: Pete Dibdin

It’s fascinating hearing how Liz thought her way into the part as she prepared for the role.

“For several days in London before the audition, I’d be travelling on the Tube and bus wondering how a vampire moves through the world – and thinking about what makes a vampire. And some little things happened that gave me clues.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to remember that a vampire is a serial killer, a romantic, a historian – being 400 years old – and an addict. A vampire is somebody who is adept at violence and abuse and coercive control, so lots of my role models were not pretty!

“But at the same time, thankfully, Morna Pearson’s writing is filled with such fabulous dark humour which appeals to me hugely. So I am constantly finding the balance between the two, being humorous and also apparently scary which it appears I’m succeeding at now.”

Dracula Mina's Reckoning. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
Dracula Mina's Reckoning. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Liz revealed: “I had people approach me on the streets of Aberdeen when the show was appearing there, saying ‘I’ll no’ sleep tonight!’ which is very gratifying.

“And some youngsters came up to me after the show one night and they were trembling!”

One of the reviews written by a theatre critic about the play staged by the National Theatre of Scotland, mentions Liz’s performance as Dracula, the “eerily gliding Count”.

Liz laughed: “I’m not quite sure how I’m doing that! But the play is set on five levels with lots of stairs and platforms and I think, between you and me, the gliding might be coming from me being very careful as I move and trying to manage that as well as my very long nails!”

Liz also researched ‘her’ Dracula by working through a reading list and watching movies. One was the Iranian-American western A Girl Walks Home At Night made by female filmmaker Ana Lily Arirpour about a skateboarding vampire.

“And, bizarrely, Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs!” Liz said. “I noticed his unblinking focus on potential prey!”

The play from National Theatre of Scotland, Aberdeen Performing Arts with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, is at Eden Court until Saturday. More:

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