Preview: Dracula, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham

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The Independent Culture

The playwright Bryony Lavery spent last summer adapting Dracula, based on Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, for the stage. Writing in a darkened room in a New York apartment, it took her two months. Luckily there was a garden, so that she could pop outside for a break from gothic terror.

The playwright Bryony Lavery spent last summer adapting Dracula, based on Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, for the stage. Writing in a darkened room in a New York apartment, it took her two months. Luckily there was a garden, so that she could pop outside for a break from gothic terror.

"I used the book as the pure source," says Lavery, a Tony best play nominee last year for Frozen, performed at the National Theatre in 2002. "As the novel is epistolary, I did a modern version. My characters all communicate in e-mails and text messages, rather than letters. It gives me the opportunity for Dracula to come through a computer as a virus. In the original story, he tends to appear as a bat, a wolf or even mist."

Lavery is now adapting Angela Carter's Wise Children for the National. Other Lavery plays include A Doll's House (2004) and A Wedding Story (2000). Apart from writing, directing and performing, Lavery has been a lecturer on the playwriting Masters course at Birmingham University.

What is her take on the Dracula story? "We think we are truly modern, but we're frightened by the same things we always were," she says. She remains faithful to the essence of Stoker's story: "It is a multiple love story. Both Dracula [played by Richard Bremner] and Van Helsing [Colin Baker] fall in love with Mina [Laura Howard]."

Naturally, there is neck-biting and blood-sucking. "I overheard a conversation the other day outside the stage door with the man who administers the blood," Lavery says. "He wanted to know if we needed runny or sticky blood. We need it all."

Dracula is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, and Ruari Murchison has created a dramatic modern gothic set. "In this production, we saw heads off and put stakes through hearts," he says. "Dracula vanishes a few times." The magic and illusions are created using both multimedia and old-fashioned stage magic.

'Dracula', Birmingham Repertory Theatre (0121-236 4455), 7 to 11 June

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