The Gothic Imagination: Dracula
Editor's note: This week Radio 4 begins The Gothic Imagination series on Radio 4 with a dramatisation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. You can hear the programme on Sunday 14 October at 3pm. The novel was adapted for Radio 4 by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, an award winning writer for stage, screen and radio, here, we ask her some questions about the project. PM
What appealed to you about adapting Dracula?
I was attracted to Dracula because the Gothic has always appealed to me, the vampire, the Undead, I have been a fan of horror since a child when I would watch the Hammer House of horror double bill late on a Friday night.
What do like about Bram Stoker's story?
I enjoy the way that Stoker tells the story from so many different viewpoints. The various strands, it's all quite filmic how we jump from the castle to Renfield in his asylum and then to Whitby. It travels fast and over continents, it's great.
How have you found the process?
The process has been interesting, I can't say how it's been ultimately until I hear it as that's the end of the process, but so far it has been a challenge and a pleasure.
What were the main challenges in adapting it for radio?
The main challenge is editing it down to such a fraction of the novel's former self. Losing so much texture and detail and hoping that the story can survive these blows.
Have you any favourite moments?
The visits from Dracula work well, the sonic nature of impaling a woman's neck. The various other sounds are wonderful, the sea, storms, creaking doors, bats, the lapping up of blood from an asylum floor. I enjoyed the rats in the chapel and the terriers coming for them at the sound of a whistle.
You're part of an entirely female group of writers working on the Gothic Season (alongside Lucy Catherine and Nancy Harris). Have you brought out a (more) female perspective to the story do you think?
Stoker's women are great characters. They're young but strong and intelligent, nothing of the whimsical victims about them. I tried to follow his lead and I wanted to explore their sexuality in the piece, the idea of the virgin.
How did you find the read through/recording?
We had no readthrough as the time was better used to dive straight in. The recording was great. Jessica Dromgoole is always fantastic to work with and the actors and the creative team were incredibly impressive.
What do you think are the key features of a Gothic Drama?
For me a great gothic tale is about suspense and psychology and characters and places that enhance the frisson of danger and darkness. There's always a very strong undercurrent of desire. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
How have you found writing an original gothic story at the same time as working on Dracula? Has it made it easier?
Working on Dracula in parallel to a modern Gothic drama was interesting. But it's hard to say how it will feed into the writing of the shorter play. They're quite different creatures. But Stoker's novel is so great about time and place and so bold. It's been great to immerse myself in that.
Rebecca Lenkiewicz is an award winning writer who, in 2008, was the first living female playwright to have her work (Her Naked Skin) produced on the Olivier Stage at the National. She has written, and adapted, widely for theatre, with plays recently at the Old Vic, the Tricycle and the Tramway Theatre Glasgow. Her radio work includes The Man in the Suit, shortlisted for a Prix Europa 2010, and Sarah and Ken, shortlisted for the BBC Audio & Music Award for Best Original Drama, and Highly Commended by the Tinniswood Award. She has written for Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and wrote The Typist for Sky Arts Live last year. She is currently writing an original screenplay for Pawel Pawlikowski, a new version of The Furies for Radio 3's Oresteia, and adapting Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler for Radio 4.
- Find out about three original gothic dramas by Lucy Catherine, Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Nancy Harris on Radio 4 Extra.
- Find more programmes from The Gothic Imagination series on Radio 4
- See the Dracula gallery
- Hear a programme preview clip of Count Dracula welcoming Jonathan Harker into his home
- Follow The Gothic Imagination series of programmes on Radio 4 on Twitter using #R4Gothic