Little Ones Theatre and Theatre Works present a high camp homage to silent cinema and the ultimate queer hero, The Prince of Darkness.

Director Stephen Nicolazzo formed the queer theatre collective, Little Ones Theatre, renowned for creating camp, kitsch, and erotically charged theatrical events with the potential for cultish fascination. Known as the purveyors of high camp, Little Ones Theatre bravely manipulates Stoker’s Gothic horror tale of vampirism into something it always was – Dracula is a queer hero: a being devoid of gender identity and sexuality (and life) but who pursues love, eroticism and – most importantly – an ability to suck and reconstitute desire and power.

Read on as Stephen Nicolazzo discusses all things Dracula:

I am drawn to the horror genre because it is all about sex. My work is constantly exploring sexuality, so one of the most erotic and terrifying horror novels of all time seemed like meaty and exciting territory to explore. I also have an undying love for the Francis Ford Coppola film version starring Winona Ryder, and have been in love with its high art camp cum opera aesthetic since I was a little kid. I think what drew me most though is the books inherent queerness. It is all about otherness and the consequences that alternative experiences of sexuality have when living in rigid socio-political contexts. The story has had such a significant cultural impact on the queer experience and I really wanted to explore that aspect of the work in a way I had never seen before.

The connection to the queer experience is a challenge and a joy though because it is so easy to de-value the emotional weight of the work by parodying the somewhat ridiculous nature of the plot in a way that aims to criticize Stoker’s novel. It is a fine line to walk (between critiquing the books flaws and also celebrating them) and we walk it every day we are working on it! I enjoy seeing the humour in the story too and lacing the tragedy with it is a big part of the work I like to make, so striking a balance between queering the content, and really honouring some of the original ideas of the book is important.

Fans can expect a loving adaptation that has taken elements of the original novel to a new and queer place. Our version also pays homage to the myriad of cinematic incarnations Stoker’s story has taken throughout history. From Bela Legosi to Nosferatu, Gary Oldman to Catherine Denuevre. The production is a theatrical celebration of not only the Stoker novel, but also horror cinema as a whole, referencing everything from expressionistic silent films of the 20’s to Dario Argento’s Giallo horrors of the 60s. We are trying to take all of the wonderfully theatrical tropes of horror cinema and explore them live on stage. It’s funny how attempting to re-create cinematic techniques on a stage actually brings you closer to a deeply theatrical place. No dialogue. All movement. All gestural. All music. It will be a totally theatrical experience.

I think that the reason Dracula has endured for as long as it has is because of the sexual politics at play. Stoker’s book, whether he was aware of it or not, and my guess is he was, is a homo-erotic, queer, and feminist exploration of sexuality and its relationship to social and cultural context. It is, weirdly, both a celebration of alternative sexuality and also a warning against it, presenting the liberating, dark, and thrilling nature of sex and sexuality to the reader through the lens of women, homosexual men, and monsters. I say it is also a warning because the content he was writing about wasn’t discussed in 1897 (when the novel was published) not simply because it wasn’t polite, but because it was illegal. The novel was written during the period of the Oscar Wilde scandal and his incarceration for homosexual activity. I bring all of this up because I don’t know how much societal views on sexuality and promiscuity have changed at all. It seems like we keep moving back to Victorian standards. It is still somehow considered impolite to wear your sexuality. Sexuality is only ever accepted if it is put into a nice hetero-normative box. If its not too shocking, dirty, or unusual. I also think that things are still as dangerous as they were when Stoker wrote Dracula. There are parts of the world where women and homosexuals are incarcerated and murdered based on gender and sexual exploration. I think that is why this book is still so relevant to marginalized voices.

We all like to be thrilled. Being scared is an erotic experience. So as long as we all still have a desire to experience terror and sex, horror will be our go-to place. It makes you feel alive and kicking!

Stephen Nicolazzo founded Little Ones Theatre and is the Artistic Director. The company has evolved over the years and now also includes Nicolazzo’s long-time collaborators Katie Sfetkidis (Lighting and Dramaturgy), Eugyeene Teh (Set and Costume), and Tessa Pitt (Costume Making) who are a huge part of the creative process. The genesis of this relationship stems from their collective love of cinema, theatre, fashion, and queer politics.

Dracula
October 20 – November 14
theatreworks.org.au

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