Bernard Cuffling wants to take the audience to an other-worldly realm, one that’s very gothic, yet also very authentic.
He wants the crowd to hear bats flying, water dripping, and to feel cold mist surround them as they watch the actors traverse into the crypt.
All the pieces in the Edwardian, Sherlock Holmes-style world Cuffling’s creating as part of the Chemainus Theatre’s production of Dracula are coming together quite nicely, he said Wednesday.
“To me, when you think of Dracula, people expect it to be scary and creepy and they want the thrill to it, and that’s what I wanted,” said director Cuffling who’s received many awards including the the Sam Payne Award (ACTA), B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame, and is a three-time Jessie Richardson award winner.
Cuffling’s also worked on several other productions, including The Importance of Being Earnest and Charley’s Aunt and has acted in You Never Can Tell, Queen Milli of Gault, An Inspector Calls, and The Perfect Wife.
It’s his first time directing Bram Stoker’s immortal legend.
But he isn’t new to the classic 1920’s-set script.
In fact, Cuffling acted next to Eric McCormack, of Will and Grace fame, in the 1996 Passion of Dracula Arts Club version.
“I’m very tired, but it’s all very exciting,” said Cuffling, noting the “hard work” is just about to start, synchronizing the 200-or-so cues in his two-hour (including intermission) adaptation.
“The challenges are to make this play as convincing as possible,” Cuffling said. “To make it a Gothic thriller. If I’ve got a scream or a wolf howling, I’ve got to get the timing right.”
Cuffling’s pumped about Chemainus Theatre’s “intimate” qualities, where he can bring action right to the audience.
“I’m really excited with the company as well. They’re getting along really well.”
Cuffling has worked with several cast members and has nothing but good things to say about his crew.
“The first premise is get a good Dracula. I think we’ve got a really good Dracula,” he said of actor Ian Butcher (of past Chemainus Theatre productions Saint Joan, South Pacific). “He looks menacing. He’s got quite the presence on stage.”
Also on stage will be Erin Ormand (Steel Magnolias, The Christmas Carol, Enchanted April, An Ideal Husband) as Dr. Seward, who’s normally played as a male, but in Cuffling’s take she’s the mother to daughter Lucy, played by Masae Day (A Pretty Girl).
Lucy’s fiance, John Harker, is played by Daryl King (Hay Fever) and Dr. Seward’s patient, Renfield, is Ian Harmon (KidzPlay, Gifts of the Magi, The Sunshine Boys, Munsch Ado About Nothing).
The crew also consists of Ted Cole (Amadeus) as Van Helsing and Michelle Liefferertz (Delicious Lies, Charley’s Aunt) as Miss Wells.
It was Dracula’s “rich content, enjoyment, and hair-raising theme that earned the play a coveted spot in the theatre’s fall lineup,” states a theatre press release.
“As the days get darker and chillier, a mysterious feeling inhabits this foggy time of year,” said artistic director Mark DuMez. “Our fall show provides a great way for teenagers and adults to enjoy the same classic mystery and thrill – especially together.
“At The Festival, we regularly try to inspire the imagination of our theatre-goers, and what better a way than with a little mystery, suspense and drama.
“Dracula is a grown-up vampire story which looks, through a classic and iconic lens, at good and evil, light and dark and will endeavour to put young and old on the edge of their seats this fall.”
Cuffling said he’d be remiss if he didn’t give kudos to musical director Nico Rhodes, set designer Pam Johnson, lighting artist Marsha Sibthorpe, costumer Mara Gottler, sound technician Paul Tedeschini, and stage manager David Baughan.
What: Chemainus Theatre Festival Inn’s Dracula
When: Oct. 11 to Nov. 9.
Evening and matinee show times vary.
Where: Chemainus Theatre Festival Inn