Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bram Stoker at Watermeetings, Upper Clyde valley

On this day (Wed 18th May) in 1897, Bram Stoker staged a live performance of Dracula at the Lyceum Theatre in London in order to protect the theatrical copyright.Bram Stoker used to stay at Watermeetings, the farmhouse which stands between the Daer and the Potrail Water - in effect, where the Clyde river starts in the valley below my house,Crookedstane Rig. He was part of the travelling entourage of Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, the two greatest actors of their day. The other member of the team was Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl who was Ellen Terry's secretary. Ellen Terry had the first fan club of any performer. The other members of the entourage were Ellen Terry's children, including Gordon Craig who she named on a whim after Ailsa Craig the rock (an extinct volcano core) that curling stones are made of which stands between Scotland and Ireland off the Ayrshire coast; he was illegitimate, so she had to choose a surname for him. This celebrity group stayed at Watermeetings because the wife of the farmer there was a former actress from Sir Henry Irving's company, whose father was the post master at the nearby village of Abington - she had come home to marry the farmer at Watermeetings, a much older man. In her later days this lady owned the first motor car in the district. Anyway, back to Bram Stoker:
Stoker was the overworked manager of the Lyceum, where he kept long hours planning the company’s seasons, organizing overseas tours, managing financial records, and undertaking secretarial duties for the Lyceum’s founder, the famed Shakespearean actor Henry Irving. (When Stoker died in 1912, obituaries predicted that he would be best remembered for his association with Irving.)
Yet Stoker worked on Dracula in his few spare moments over the course of six years. And on this day, just a few days before the book was published, Stoker hastily pieced together large sections of the book for a stage production. The play was billed as Dracula; Or the Undead and was performed for theater employees and lucky passerby. It lasted four hours. The final decision to call the book simply Dracula was made almost literally at the last minute. (some of this info courtesy of The Writers Almanac)

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