Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Honourable Mention: The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula

Getting an Honourable Mention as I am not straying into reviewing radio plays but by crikey this deserves a mention. The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula started life as a Anthony Hind’s script for Hammer than was unfortunately never filmed. Mark Gatiss has taken that script and directed a radio play of it for BBC Radio 4.

Set in India in the 1930s the play has a narrator in the form of Michael Sheen (Underworld, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the Twilight Saga: New Moon, the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 & the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2) and follows Penny (Anna Madeley) as she travels across India in search of her missing sister. Also travelling in the train with her are the kindly Babu (Kulvinder Ghir) and the brother and sister performers Prem (Nikesh Patel) and Lakshmi (Ayesha Dharker).

The siblings are travelling to perform for a Maharajah (Raj Ghatak) but when they arrive at his palace they discover that their services have been bought to entertain the house guest Count Dracula (Lewis Macleod). I have to say that Macleod sounded just like Christopher Lee and brought a wonderous gravitas to the role, bravo. The Maharajah’s wife (Meera Syal) is the high priestess of a proscribed blood cult (clearly a Kali cult, though the Goddess is not mentioned).

There are some wonderful scenes, such as Dracula so replete from drinking blood that he lies glassy eyed, the blood cult ritual that pre-dated Indiana Jones, or the pit of vampire women that made the basement of the house in Satanic Rites of Dracula seem empty by comparison, all drawn – of course – through storytelling. One thing that seemed a strange change (though it suited the story) was removing Dracula’s ability to shapeshift into a bat – without spoiling things too much Dracula becomes trapped atop a tower and one would have expected him to fly away. This fits with Dracula’s first Hammer outing in Horror of Dracula, as it is explicitly stated that he cannot transform into a bat but Hammer ditched that concept thereafter.

I understand that Gatiss wishes to film the script at some point but, until (and if) that happens we now have the radio adaptation, which I hope the BBC will make commercially available at some point.

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