“Dracula” is a novel by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. The narrative unfolds through letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles. It lacks a single protagonist and commences with solicitor Jonathan Harker embarking on a business trip to stay at the castle of Transylvanian nobleman, Count Dracula. After uncovering Dracula’s vampiric nature, Harker escapes the castle. The Count then relocates to England and brings terror to the seaside town of Whitby. A small group, led by the Dutch scholar Abraham Van Helsing, investigates, hunts, and ultimately vanquishes Dracula.

The novel’s plot has inspired numerous vampire films, particularly the early silent movies such as F. W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” from 1923, which have become iconic representations of vampire horror.

From the outset of this theater project, it was evident that I intended to delve into the aesthetics of early black and white silent movies. Consequently, this production required a different organizational approach compared to traditional theater productions. We commenced rehearsals by creating numerous film sequences, which, along with old archive films, formed the foundational elements of the performance. As a result, period costumes, makeup, and props had to be prepared from the outset.

Utilizing pre-recorded video as a primary reference for the actors presented challenges due to the demand for a high level of precision. Similarly, emulating the melodramatic acting style characteristic of silent movies proved to be difficult. Nonetheless, I insisted that the actors replicate the performance style of a film from 1910.

Music played an integral role in silent movies, prompting my decision to incorporate both recorded and live music from the era throughout the entire performance. The music, recorded films, and AI-generated still images were technically modified to align with the quality of film and music recordings from the early 1900s.

Ultimately, all these aesthetic elements converged, transforming the performance into a kind of “Gesamtkunstwerk” – a fusion of visual art, film, and theater.

As for the choice of “Dracula,” we consulted Ukrainian youth who are refugees from the brutal Russian war against their country and asked them, “Who is Dracula today?” Unanimously, they answered: “Vladimir Putin.” (If we had posed the same question to Norwegian youth in 1942, they would likely have answered: “Adolf Hitler.”)

The malevolent or destructive force embodied by the character of Dracula remains as pertinent today as it was in the past and thus warranted acknowledgment in the performance. Given that the actor portraying Dracula spoke Russian, I directed him to speak with a distinct Russian accent throughout the entire performance.

To establish a direct connection between the vampire Dracula and the tyrant Vladimir Putin, I wrote a monologue for Dracula that the audience hears initially as a recorded prologue. Later, Dracula delivers the same monologue in Russian when he encounters Jonathan Harker at his castle in Transylvania. Finally, in the last seconds of the performance as Dracula is neutralized by the sun, we seamlessly blend in images of burning housing blocks in Ukraine, juxtaposed against the striking red hue of the morning sun.

Dracula’s prologue:

“My project is like a global virus. I, a bloodthirsty count from Transylvania, am about to bring the world back to the dark Middle Ages, when fear, violence, and blood determined the course of development, not international laws, rules, and scientific reasoning.

In the dark Middle Ages, a leader of an imperialistic nation could wage war against another nation without scruples because they wanted to incorporate that people into their empire. War, with its horrors and human sacrifices, was considered a normal action. The bloody war could be justified by political, religious, or historical arguments.

And that’s how it is becoming now, after I, Count Dracula, have released my virus. A virus of contempt for democracy and denial of scientific reasoning. It is an infectious virus composed of myths and conspiracy theories.

Welcome back to the dark Middle Ages! Welcome to the age of wars! Welcome to the age of Dracula, in which blood flows freely!”