Western culture is obsessed with gore and violence and torture. We love it in our media, we love it in our history and we love it in our folklore. I have a deep love of Gothic literature from man made monsters to the romantic nobility that seduces women and then drains them of their blood and their mortal souls.
Vampires are the most popular mythical beings. They are more popular than fairies, unicorns, and leprechauns. There are good ones and there are bad ones. Misunderstood and completely feared.
The most famous vampire ever is and will always be Dracula, but if we were to root around into history you would find that Dracula was based on a Romanian nobleman Vlad the Impaler. The facts around his life are absolutely horrific, however, he didn’t drink blood and wasn’t a serial killer.
The second most famous “vampire” is a woman and her name is Erzebet (Elizabeth) Bathory, a pure blooded aristocrat from Hungary. Her family was the Kennedys of the time. Rich, educated, attractive and powerful. She married a well respected nobel who was also the head of the Hungarian Army and with that much power and responsibility one will always have a target on your back and that is where Blood Countess lives.
Written, directed and performed by Sharon Nowlan, this one woman show dives deep into the misogyny and misinformation surrounding “The Blood Countess” and the circumstances around her life of torment and eventual death.
It is gripping and intimate and visually striking. Employing minimal set but historic costumes and impressive poi and whip skills Nowlan will make you feel the betrayal and pain that one feels when you are centre of scandal and rumor.
It is not for everyone, you have to love history and you have love vampire to really get this show at its core. If you are thinking you are going to see torture porn at the Fringe you are going to be gravely mistaken. If you think that you are going to get Twilight or Interview With A Vampire, you should go to Netflix. This show is meant for us folks who are folk lore nerds.
You can see Blood Countess Friday September 15th at 8:40pm and Saturday September 16th at 4:15pm and tickets are available here.
We were able to have a quick talk with Sharon about the project and her goals for Blood Countess and her future plans.
LM: Can you give us the history of the project?
SN: About 9 years ago I was working on a production of Dracula. At a party, the lead actor told me that I should play Elizabeth Bathory. I was unfamiliar with her, so I began looking into her story. Over the years I became more interested in the story, ordering every book I could find on the subject. Most portrayals of her supported the accepted legend: She was a prolific murderess, obsessed with her looks, who would kill young virgin girls in order to bathe in their blood.
Yet, when I focused my research on facts, and what could be proven with documentation, another portrayal emerged. She was educated and intelligent, spoke 5 languages (including the language of her peasants). A mother. A woman who managed a large amount of properties, worked in her community, started a school for young women, and supported war widows.
It was this contrast that kept compelling me to come back to the story.
Of course, it would have been quite easy (and fun!) to portray the legend in a bloody horror show. But it was after last year’s US election when I realized that I could not do that. I would not use a sensationalized story to portray this powerful and intelligent woman as a monster.
LM: What are your plans for the show in the future?
SN: That’s a tough questions to answer, at the end of a six city tour! It’s been challenging.
But, I think after I integrate my experiences of this summer, the Countess will rise again. I believe the subject matter, and the esthetic of the show, might appeal to a European audience. I would love to continue to tour it.
LM: Given that history is written by the winners do you think that women’s stories in history usually need to be retold later on in years to add context and nuance?
SN: I love the saying, “don’t believe everything that you think”. It’s so easy to except historical record as fact. But if you’ve ever been a subject of gossip, you know how quickly stories can get muddied. Women have not fared well in history. If we are to learn from it, it is worth re-examining.
The ‘facts’ behind the legend of Elizabeth Bathory–650 girls murdered, bathing in blood–didn’t come into documentation until 100 years after her death. But that is the story that many people prefer to stick to.
If you don’t find my interpretation plausible, you aren’t paying attention.
LM: Can you tell us if you learned any skills for the show or how you incorporated skills you had into the show?
SN: I have used whips and LED poi in most of my shows. When I saw that there was a new LED whip product, I immediately ordered it. I was excited to be able to integrate this very modern product into my 16th century world, in a way that I think is very effective.
LM: Do you have other projects that are in the works?
SN: Not at the moment. But I see as many Fringe shows as I can while I can. I am always inspired by the work of my fellow artists.