Dracula! at the Abbey
The origins of the timeless, classic Gothic horror brilliantly brought to life (and then death) by the wonderful Time Will Tell Theatre company.
Any visitor to Whitby, the old whaling and fishing port on the North Yorkshire coast, cannot avoid its links to Bram Stoker and his story of the undead Count Dracula. It was while staying at Whitby that Stoker completed his gothic tale, written as a collection of realistic but completely fictional diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to the story, and he based much of this story around local lore of shipwrecks and unnatural occurrences.
Now, each weekend until 21st August, the Time Will Tell Theatre Company are re-enacting the origin story of Dracula, using the same approach as Stoker – diary entries, ships logs, letters etc. Set in the ruins of the Abbey atop the East cliff, the location could not be bettered, nor can the casting and acting. Wonderfully entertaining, delightfully educating and something for all ages, this is a great memory making few hours which was talked about for the rest of the weekend.
Encouraged to gather round, the patrons of the Abbey sit, stand, lean, perch while the cast take us through the story, beginning with Professor Abraham Van Helsing (studying epidemics, disease and unknown ailments) and his warnings to Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor bound to travel to Transylvania to conduct business with Count Dracula. We follow Harker on his travels, told through his diary entries and letters back his fiancé Mina, as he crosses to Eastern Europe and encounters the strange customs and superstitions of the inhabitants of the Carpathian mountain region.
We are introduced to the Count and recognise the traits we are all so familiar with now; his aversion to crucifixes, his love of the night time, his power to control minds, and then we return to Whitby, following the Count as he begins his quest to turn the people of Yorkshire into his undead minions and the final showdown with Van Helsing, the vampire’s victims and the Count himself.
The cast play a multitude of roles, all done so with great merit, wonderful costumes and terrific acting, as they move about the Abbey grounds, stopping at various ‘staging areas’ to add another chapter to the story line. To think we were perched atop the cliffs, open to the weather and with no sound amplification, they are all brilliant orators, never simply talking to one area, they move about ensuring everyone gets to hear the story. Often they engage the audience (especially the children) to become a part of the tale, there’s lots of humour as well as the real history and all of this makes it far more than just a simple story telling show.
Perfect for all ages, children are invited to sit at the front at each stop, there are plenty of ruins to rest/sit on and whilst the cast are boundless in their energy, you never feel rushed to follow them to the next ‘scene’.
Once the show has finished, the cast are more than happy to pose for photographs, chat to the audience and answer any questions before it’s quick sticks for a drink and a rest in advance of doing it all again.
The show lasts approx. 90 minutes straight through and leaves the audience with a real sense of having been on the journey. There is no better way to immerse yourself in the history of Whitby than to go to the Abbey and watch this brilliant production. (just remember to take plenty of spare socks!)
Dracula! at Whitby Abbey is on every weekend until August 21st with shows at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. The show is free to watch once you have entered the Abbey (entrance fee for the Abbey or as part of National Heritage membership)
Looking further ahead, the same team will be performing as part of Illuminated Abbey, a spectacular evening show at the Abbey running daily from 21st to 31st October 6pm to 9pm. See the story of Dracula brought to life before your very eyes within the Abbey ruins all aglow, with new illumination effects and a twist on the usual show as we celebrate 125 years of Dracula.
Tickets, details and memberships are available from English Heritage https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/whitby-abbey/events/