Synopsis: Sitting in his castle like a spider in its web, Count Dracula is setting his plans in motion. Soon he will travel to England, there to cut a bloody swathe through polite society and pit himself against a dedicated crew of vampire-slayers. Yet before then, there is much to be done. A certain artist must be brought to him and a certain portrait painted. An old tale must be told, drawn from the darkest recesses of Transylvanian history. Meanwhile, in faraway London, an honest police detective must be corrupted and set to work in the service of the Count. The vampire king is making preparations, and his survival will be assured – no matter the cost.
Review: Jonathan Barnes, who adapted Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Big Finish, crafted a prequel — Dracula’s Guests. In three interwoven stories, Barnes not only sets the stage for the classic original tale, but he lays the groundwork for a sequel as well. That sequel — Dracula’s War — will be available in September of this year.
In order to create a prequel to Stoker’s legendary work, Barnes used that novel as a springboard. More precisely, he used a chapter Stoker’s editor had him remove, as the book was running long. After his death, Stoker’s widow added it to a posthumous anthology — Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories.
Barnes builds an original character to replace the nameless narrator of “Dracula’s Guest.” Jeremiah Hart is an artist, commissioned by Dracula to paint an unusual portrait. Hart is the first of three guests. Unbeknownst to him, Hart encounters the Count’s second guest in a deserted village.
Dracula unfolds the history of his second guest to Hart, as the portrait progresses. This second story is my favorite of the three, as it touches on Dracula’s historical roots. The medieval geopolitics are appropriately medieval. Barnes pulls no punches, letting the story play out as it inexorably must.
The third story is that of Renfield. He’s driven mad, as he’s affected by the events within the other two strands of the narrative.
David Bamber does a great job as Jeremiah Hart. He commits to playing the multiple layers of Hart’s personality, as the painter goes on a much more emotionally complex journey than Jonathan Harker.
Ian Hallard reprises the role of Renfield. He plays the frazzled caregiver, the competent Victorian copper, and a cog in one immortal being’s plans with equal skill.
That said, Mark Gatiss remains the star. Other actors have played Dracula before him, and many will follow him in the role. However, Gatiss plays this generation’s definitive version of the character as Bram Stoker intended him.
Is it September, yet? I can’t wait to hear the exciting conclusion — Dracula’s War.
- Audio Production10