What would you do if you found Bram Stoker’s original version of Dracula? James Gaddas wrote an obsessive one-man show

James Gaddas: Getting his teeth stuck into Dracula’s story

THIS is the story of Bad Girls, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks actor James Gaddas happening upon Bram Stoker’s original handwritten manuscript of Dracula.

He duly reads of strange encounters in the Count’s castle in Transylvania, his ghostly arrival on a ship of death off the coast of Whitby, his midnight seductions, and a heroic pursuit across Europe in a race against the setting of the sun.

So far, so familiar, but this document contains pages never published, leading Gaddas to a terrifying discovery, one that he shares with the Grand Opera House audience in York on Monday (21/2/2022) in his solo show Dracula – One Man’s Search For The Truth.

“What if everything we thought we knew was just the beginning? What if it’s not a work of fiction but a warning? What if the legend is real?” ponders James, who will bring the original version to life before sharing his discovery in a performance with one actor, 15 characters and one monumental decision. “Are some things better left unburied,” he must discern.

Are you telling the “truth” in this adaptation, James? “It’s more like Boris Johnson’s ‘truth’,” he says. “It’s conjecture. It’s a way of being able to do a one-man version of Dracula without just concentrating on the end.”

Born in Teesside, James recalls Dracula being the first horror film he saw when he was only 11. “I was staying with my grandparents,” he recalls. “I went to bed, but being typically adventurous, I tiptoed downstairs, turned on the telly, and there it was: Dracula, starring Peter Cushing.”

Gaddas, now 61, initially had the chance to appear in Dracula with a small-scale theatre company in Bath 40 years ago when training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. “I was going to do it, but then I got offered work for my Equity Card, and there was nothing for me in doing Dracula as it was a non-Equity production,” he says.

The idea of doing his own Dracula show first came after watching programmes about searching for lost Second World War treasure. “You watch, knowing from the start they won’t find anything, and they still haven’t after an hour, with all those looks to the camera, but it made me think, ‘wouldn’t it be fascinating to find Stoker’s original version of Dracula?’.

Gaddas was duly asked to voice one of those “lost treasures” investigations into the roots of Stoker’s manuscript, taking him to Romania, where he travelled around Dracula country with a film crew and director in jeeps. “But then something goes wrong with the filming and we have to come back to England,” he says.

Whereupon he took up the role of abusive care-home worker Cormac Ranger in Hollyoaks, shooting episodes sporadically in 2020 and 2021. “I was doing Hollyoaks when lockdown started, so I was left kicking my heels and started looking further into the Stoker story, deciding to write my adaptation in lockdown in London,” says James.

“The idea is that Stoker had been asked by Van Helsing to put this genuine document in book form and I then take it upon myself to take up that story – and by trying to tell it like an investigative journalist, it allows you to play with how Stoker had everything flying around all over the place – the timelines, the newspaper cuttings, the journals – when he was writing the book.

The poster, blood-red writing and all, for James Gaddas’s Dracula – One Man’s Search For The Truth

“In my show, the search for the truth becomes an obsession, and that psychological side of a story is such a strong part of a solo show.”

Gaddas previously wrote a solo play in Australia in 1989 called Shadow Boxing. “It was about a gay boxer,” he says. “It came about when this actor, David Field, said, ‘write me a one-man show’, and his dad had been a boxer. That play was revived on an Arts Council tour over here two years ago.”

Gaddas knew what form his Dracula show should take. “Doing such a classic piece, I wanted to get away from just standing there enunciating the book,” he says. “We’ve come to the point where we expect Dracula to be a comedy, whereas really it isn’t. It’s much more like Nosferatu, rooted in Eastern European ideology, while playing with what happens to someone when sense ends and obsession begins. It’s that archetypal thing where an obsession can take over.”

He may be performing on his own, but he has an impressive production team that has created the show with him, led by director Pip Minnithorpe, UK associate director of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.

Illusion design is by John Bulleid, who provided the Olivier Award-winning illusions for The Worst Witch, and Deborah Radin has provided the movement direction.

The show’s original music is by composer and Downton Abbey and Ted Lasso actor Jeremy Swift. “I’ve known Jez since he was 11, when we were at school together,” says James.

“He’s always had a love of music, and we’d write songs together; he’d write the tunes, I’d write the lyrics. Anyway, we were on this walk on Hampstead Heath, when he said, ‘what are you doing in lockdown?’, and I told him I was writing a one-man play. ‘Would you like me to write the music?’ he said.”

Tomorrow, Gaddas will be playing no fewer than 15 characters. “It’s slightly easier than when I did Billy Bishop Goes To War, a [John MacLachlan Gray ] musical about a Canadian First World War flying ace, where I had to play 23 characters – and I didn’t get to choose those characters, but here, for Dracula, I could.”

As the interview draws to a close, Gaddas offers a final thought on Stoker’s sense of drama in his writing. “Today, he would probably have been writing episodes for Coronation Street,” he says. Imagine that.

James Gaddas in Dracula – One Man’s Search For The Truth, Grand Opera House, York, February 21, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

York singer Twinnie marks debut album’s anniversary with Hollywood Reimagined EP

Twinnie: New EP and American release on its way too

YORK country-pop singer-songwriter Twinnie is releasing a reimagined five-track EP to mark the first anniversary of her debut studio album, Hollywood Gypsy.

The album was made BBC Radio 2’s Album of the Week after its chart peak of number one in the UK iTunes Country Chart and a five-week consecutive stay in the UK Country Top 20 Chart.

Since being launched on April 17 2020 on BMG, Hollywood Gypsy has been streamed more than seven million times across Spotify and was re-released as an acoustic package late last year.

Now, to bring a new dimension to the hit crossover record, Twinnie is releasing an EP exclusively via bandcamp that reimagines five of the songs as you have never heard them before: Better When I’m Drunk, I Love You Now Change, Hollywood Gypsy, Daddy Issues and Feeling Of Falling.

The artwork for Twinnie’s Hollywood Gypsy Reimagined

“Bringing a dynamic and powerful new stylistic to several of the tracks, the York performer delivers an emotive vocal and allow fans to find a new favourite with this exciting take on the album,” proclaims the press release.

The EP, out this week, will act as a bridge to new music from the pop-influenced artist, who is working on new material with revered producers in Nashville, Tennessee, for a project set for release soon via her American label, BBR Music Group.

Twinnie, 33, made her name as Twinnie-Lee Moore in West End and touring musicals, such as playing murderer Velma Kelly in the 2009/2010 tour of Chicago, and in the soap opera role of Porsche McQueen in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks from November 4 2014 to December 24 2015.

Twinnie will play a re-scheduled sold-out gig at The Crescent, York, on September 14. All tickets acquired for the original 7.30pm show remain valid, but refunds are available from your original point of purchase.

Twinnie will play The Crescent, York, on her rearranged tour

Twinnie turns into the North Country Girl as York singer travels the road to Nashville

Twinnie: the northerner takes the road to the American South

YORK country singer-songwriter Twinnie will go ahead with the April 17 launch of her debut album, Hollywood Gypsy, even amid the Coronavirus lockdown.

After all, it took the West End musical leading light, model, Hollyoaks soap star and film actress ten years to land a record contract with big hitters BMG.

“I feel very excited and it’s come around really quickly since I released my first EP [Better When I’m Drunk] last March,” says Twinnie, 32, who first took to the York stage as Twinnie-Lee Moore at the age of four.

“Given the current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s a weird time, but I’m a new artist, I’ve waited so long to make an album, and right now, more than ever, I feel I need music, we need music.

“It would be easy to panic, but I’ve found I’ve connected more than ever with my fans on Instagram Live.”

Making country inroads: the artwork for Twinnie’s debut album, Hollywood Gypsy

Twinnie was to have played a sold-out home-city gig at The Crescent on March 22 to showcase Hollywood Gypsy, but the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to her debut headline tour, now re-arranged for the autumn. Glasgow, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol await, before a Crescent crescendo on November 29, with tickets remaining valid.

Twinnie did perform, however, at the prestigious Country2Country (C2C) Festival in Berlin on March 7 and 8, and coming next was a C2C show at the O2 Arena, London, on March 14. “That would have been a really big deal for me, being able to promote my album and tour, so it’s a real downer, but I’m just really grateful that there’s still light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s good that we’ve managed to re-schedule the tour,” she says.

As chance would have it, the C2C cancellation led to a prompt invitation to fill the void in Twinnie’s diary with a live set on BBC Radio 2’s The Country Show with Bob Harris on March 12. “Bob has been a really big supporter of mine,” she says. “He was the first DJ to support me on the radio, even before I had a recording contract. I just sent him a track and he played it!”

Bob Harris: supportive host of BBC Radio 2’s The Country Show

Twinnie first trod the boards in York when attending the late Miss Isobel Dunn’s dance school, started playing a keyboard at seven and then performed in the Grand Opera House pantomime dance ensemble. She progressed from roles as Bet in Oliver! in 2001 and Lilly in Annie in 2002 in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project to playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz in 2003.

“I was 16 and I thought I might have been too tall for Dorothy but the director, Simon Barry, said I was the right choice,” she recalls.

A month later, the former Joseph Rowntree School pupil was leaving behind her Haxby Road home for three years of dance and musical theatre studies at Phil Winston’s Theatre Works in Blackpool.

West End roles ensued in We Will Rock You and the short-lived Desperately Seeking Susan, and in April 2009,  now 21, she returned home to the Grand Opera House as 1920s’ Chicago double murderess and aloof nightclub singer Velma Kelly in the national tour of Chicago.

Twinnie-Lee Moore in her role as double murderess Velma Kelly in Chicago, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, in April 2009

Her face greeted the London Underground throng on Chicago’s trademark black-and-white posters too and she had a year as the Latino character Jazmin in Flashdance in the original London cast at the Shaftsbury Theatre from autumn 2010.

Twinnie sang Miley Cyrus’s The Climb when competing on BBC One talent show The Voice in March 2012, failing to hit the heights alas with an early exit. After film roles in Iron Clad 2 and Strangelove in 2014, she made her soap debut as racy Porsche McQueen in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks in November that year, playing her for a year.

A further screen role followed in The Wife, the Oscar-nominated Glenn Close film, but all the while, Twinnie was drawn to making music. “To be honest, music was probably the first thing I started out wanting to do, which people don’t know about. But people pay their dues to pay their mortgage,” she says.

“Even when I was doing We Will Rock You at 19 with Brian May, performing eight shows a week, I was playing country songs in dive bars too at the weekend.”

Twinnie-Lee Moore in her soap-opera days as Porsche McQueen in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks

Now dividing her time between London and Nashville, Twinnie is living out that wish to put her song-writing to the fore. “I’ve been on stage since I was four years old, and my dad introduced me to the music of some of the best songwriters. Like my first gig was Gilbert O’Sullivan,” she says.

“And I always loved musicals too. I grew up watching Hollywood movie musicals, especially Judy Garland, which is one of the reasons I’ve called the album Hollywood Gypsy.”

Determination to succeed marked out Twinnie from a young age. “Even at eight, I wrote down the addresses of the Sony Music and Universal record company labels. Then one of my poems got published at school. I always wanted to tell stories,” she says.

“I got told you have to do everything for what you do to work. You can’t just stand there and sing. I always want people to feel entertained when I do a show.

“Coming from the North, I’m always looking to make a real connection,” says Twinnie. “That’s why I write so honestly, talking about all my faults”. Picture: Alex Berger

“I don’t think there are many ‘triple threat’ performers like me, so I want to tell the story, not just in the song, but in the performance too.”

Country music might not have been an obvious outlet for a York singer and songwriter, but Twinnie says: “For me, country music was always big. Johnny Cash; Dolly Parton, one of the great songwriters; Shania Twain and now Taylor Swift,” she says.”

Twinnie has been travelling to Nashville, Tennessee, for the past six or seven years, leading to her co-writing in the capital of country with Grammy Award-winning writers Nathan Chapman, Liz Rose and Dave Barns.

“I also wrote with Ben Earle, before he formed The Shires with Crissie Rhodes, and two of my songs with him, Black And White and First Flight Out, ended up on their first album, Brave,” she says.

Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle of The Shires. Twinnie co-wrote two songs on their debut album with Earle

Now, after winning Best Breakthrough Act at the 2019 British Country Music Association awards and a support slot on Kiefer Sutherland’s tour, everything comes to fruition for Twinnie on Hollywood Gypsy.

This is a thoroughly modern country album, made with the likes of Little Mix, One Direction and Britney Spears producer Peter Hammerton, and recorded in Nashville, London and Sweden,with such song titles as Better When I’m Drunk, Type Of Girl, Whiplash, Lie To Me and I Love You Now Change.

“Every genre changes and country music is now so diverse, but everyone appreciates a good melody, strong lyrics, and that’s why people really respect country music,” says Twinnie, who loves the candour of country songs.

“Coming from the North, I’m always looking to make a real connection. That’s why I write so honestly, talking about all my faults,” she says.

“When you feel you’re getting out of your depth, that’s when the magic happens,” says Twinnie . Picture: Maximilian Hetherington

“I have no shame in highlighting my flaws and being vulnerable: there’s a strength in vulnerability when we can all connect with it. Each song shows a different side of my personality: I either want to break someone’s heart or make them dance.”

Returning to the album title, Twinnie says: “It pretty much sums me up. As well as my love of Hollywood musicals, I’m a traveller by nature and by heritage, so I’m  quite free. Hollywood Gypsy is about me, my life, my artistry.

“I’m representing my dad’s heritage, my mum’s heritage, and I’m very proud of that heritage. It’s who I am and why I’m free spirited.

“All of it, whether I’m acting, dancing, modelling or singing, I’m just not afraid to push my boundaries because, when you feel you’re getting out of your depth, that’s when the magic happens.”

Recording in Nashville, London and Sweden adds to Twinnie being a Hollywood Gypsy, she suggests. “I feel I’m a bit of a musical gypsy, taking from different genres, growing up listening to Tupac, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Joel, Shania Twain,” she says. “Obviously Queen too: I’m always so grateful to Brian May for when I did We Will Rock You.”

Dave Stewart: co-writing with Twinnie via the medium of FaceTime

In the Coronavirus lockdown, Twinnie has set herself a three-week challenge that began a week ago to listen to an album a day and then pick her favourite song from each one to learn how to play it. “I never have time to do things like this, so I’m using this time to grow and get inspired,” she says. “I’m also trying to learn Spanish.”

Along with many musicians, she is “trying to find new ways to do things at the moment”. Such as? “I’ve written a song on FaceTime with Dave Stewart, from the Eurythmics,” Twinnie reveals. “I’d never met him before, but he’s from Sunderland, I’m from York, so we had that banter of being northerners together!”

Still in the diary for July 11 is Twinnie’s appearance at Pocklington Arts Centre’s Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington (an event subject to further Coronavirus updates), but what’s coming next for Twinnie? “I was meant to be going to America to make an EP in Nashville, and that recording will still happen, but I may now have to find a way of doing it remotely,” she says.

Looking further ahead, she says: “Hollywood Gypsy is the first chapter. Next year will be the next half of the story. So it’ll be like a double album.”

Twinnie’s new video for I Love You Now Change

Did you know?

IN Twinnie’s new video for I Love You Now Change, she is seen signing divorce papers.

“I put my ex’s name on the papers when we shot the video for a laugh, but some people actually thought it was real,” she says. “Just to clarify, I have never been married and Boris killed off the socialising and dating scene, so looks like I won’t be in a white dress anytime soon.”

The husband in the video is played by Gustav Wood. Watch it at twinnieofficial.com.

How did The Press reviewer judge 16-year-old Twinnie-Lee Moore’s lead performance as Dorothy in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project’s The Wizard Of Oz in York in August 2003?

“Twinnie-Lee displays supremely confident skills in stage movement; her Kansas accent is spot-on too, and once her voice fully warms up after Over The Rainbow, she sings with expression, albeit in the modern pop style that might better suit The Wiz.”

Copyright of The Press, York