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Photos: Four of Swords Presents DOCTOR DRACULA

An innovative new play adds a unique twist to the story of Dracula by urging audiences to give their own blood.

Exeter-based theatre company Four of Swords has created a pioneering multi-media production that will plunge the audience into an exploration of blood and its symbolic significance in mythology, religion, and literature.

Crucially, however, it also pursues the development of blood science into 21st Century medicine, featuring references to modern understanding of blood-based diseases and cures.

This ranges from established areas such as epigenetics - a single drop of blood contains all kinds of information about a person - to provocative concepts such as autovampirism: the harvesting our own blood when young to reinject later in life.

Doctor Dracula comprises intimate, promenade performances in unusual and evocative places, beginning with the National Trust's Knightshayes near Tiverton.

Pitched at the intersection of the arts and medical sciences, it uses video projections detailing actual patients' experiences of blood conditions such as haemochromatosis and anaemia.

The story is informed by the academic research of Professor Nick Groom and Dr Luke Pilling of the University of Exeter.

It also aims to improve understanding of rare and treatable blood disorders, to encourage an increase in NHS blood donations and engagement with the Exeter 10,000 research project.

Co-director Philip Kingslan John said: "The aim of the show is to raise awareness, yes, but also to amuse, to inspire and terrify audiences in equal measure.

"I am fascinated by how our understanding of blood has changed through the ages, and the immortal life of the vampire is the perfect vehicle to explore this."

Doctor Dracula will raise awareness of conditions such as haemochromatosis, a genetic condition which causes people to absorb too much iron from their diet.

This iron then accumulates in the blood and damages many organs over time, eventually causing disease.

It is the most common genetic disorder in the UK, affecting up to 250,000 people of European ancestry.

Dr Luke Pilling (University of Exeter Medical School) said: "Our recent work has shown that people who carry mutations for the blood condition haemochromatosis are at much higher risk of disease than previously thought. Diagnosis is often delayed or missed, as symptoms such as joint pains and tiredness are frequently mistaken as signs of ageing.

"Fortunately, a simple prevention and cure for haemochromatosis is available: the regular removal of blood! Although that may seem like a treatment straight from a vampire story, it good for everyone: once the irons levels have been brought down the blood can be safely used by the NHS as a usual donation."

Doctor Dracula will not only raise awareness of this condition, but medical professionals will also be on hand to answer further questions, and drive recruitment for the NHS Give Blood programme.

Doctor Dracula is written, produced and performed by Four of Swords. It is a promenade production, meaning that audiences will be on their feet for the 80-minute duration of the show, following the action through different rooms and locations.

Performance run at Knightshayes Court National Trust Tiverton EX16 7RG 23 to 26th October then 30 October until 2 November.

Further venues and a tour will be announced soon.

Photo Credit: Matt Austin

Photos: Four of Swords Presents DOCTOR DRACULA
Ed Jobling, Miall Yates, Sarah White, Philip Kingslan John

Photos: Four of Swords Presents DOCTOR DRACULA
Ed Jobling, Philip Kingslan

Photos: Four of Swords Presents DOCTOR DRACULA
Ed Jobling, Philip Kingslan

Photos: Four of Swords Presents DOCTOR DRACULA
Sarah White

Photos: Four of Swords Presents DOCTOR DRACULA
Sarah White, Miall Yates

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