Dracula moves into the castle

ON STAGE

Dracula: The Blood is the Life

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Where: Craigdarroch Castle

When: Oct. 10 to 31

Tickets: $26 general admission, $23 for castle members. Available at (250) 592 5232 or at thecastle.ca.

It's not quite bats in the belfry. But Dracula will make his debut appearance at Victoria's historic Craigdarroch Castle - just in time for Halloween.

Dracula: The Blood is the Life is a new stage interpretation of Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel Dracula. The adaptation is by Christina Patterson and David Radford, a husband-and-wife team who not only wrote the script but star in and direct the show.

Radford is Dracula while Patterson plays his hapless victim. The show, part of a longtime theatre series at the castle, is a co-production between Patterson and Radford's Launch Pad Productions and Giggling Iguana Productions.

Radford and Patterson are familiar faces in Victoria's theatre scene. Last year, they wrote and performed Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles, a steam-punk-style spoof of vintage action flicks. Perhaps guided by the motto "the couple in plays together stays together," they have performed together in many productions, including: The Cursed Cabaret of Kelowna Day Taylor, Richard III, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Now married for nine years, they met in a 1994 production of Much Ado About Nothing, with Radford playing Don Pedro and Patterson as Beatrice. A shared passion for theatre helps keep the marriage interesting, they say.

"We're never the couple sitting at a dinner table, chewing our food in silence," Patterson said. "We always have lots to talk about."

Adapting Dracula for the castle was a challenge. For one thing, Stoker's volume is boiled down to a one-hour show. The original novel is told in the form of letters and journal entries shifting between points of view. The trick, Patterson and Radford say, was teasing out an action-filled narrative from the pages of a century-old tale. They've added their own touches, such as afflicting a chunk of the English population with "zoophagia," that is, a desire to devour the blood of living creatures.

"Paul Terry, who plays the vampire slayer, invokes an exorcism throughout the castle in order to clean England of the spirit of Dracula," Radford said.

Radford and Patterson have performed at Craigdarroch Castle many times. They love the space, deeming it "the best set in Victoria." That said, the castle, which has hosted theatre since 2000, has limitations. Some of its 39 rooms are too small to house the show's six-person cast and an audience that typically numbers about 50. As well, the building's heritage status forbids theatrics from getting too out of hand.

"There are limitations on how much blood you're allowed to have in the castle," said Patterson, who, like Radford, has acted since her teens.

Radford first got a taste for theatre in plays at Parklands Secondary School in Sidney, and later performed in productions at Langham Court Theatre.

Patterson, a Victoria native, briefly studied at Langara College's Studio 58 program as a 19-year-old. The couple later pursued professional acting careers in Vancouver and Toronto for eight years. However, the lure of this city ultimately proved too strong.

"For years and years it was, 'Nope, I'm going to be an actor and I'll move away if I have to.' But eventually, you start to balance things out a little more," Patterson said. "Suddenly, things like being next to the ocean, just having beautiful surroundings, becomes a little more valuable than going to auditions in Toronto."

To make ends meet, Radford does carpentry with fellow actor Terry. Patterson is a marketing and development assistant at Pacific Opera Victoria.

"Sometimes it's a bit brighter and shinier to say, 'I'm an actor,' " said Patterson. "And sometimes it's more like, 'Oh, I like to act in my spare time.' " achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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