Body count: New ‘Dracula’ series has horror, humor and real bite

“Dracula” is Bram Stoker’s gothic-horror. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Body count: New ‘Dracula’ series has horror, humor and real bite

  • The tale begins in Hungary in 1897
  • A clearly unwell Englishman called Jonathan Harker finds himself in a convent, where he was taken after some fishermen found him almost (or, not almost) dead

AMMAN: Having successfully adapted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” books for the small screen in the wildly popular BBC series “Sherlock,” showrunners Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have turned their attention to another beloved novel, Bram Stoker’s gothic-horror “Dracula.” 

There are definite parallels with “Sherlock” here. First, both “Dracula” and “Sherlock Holmes” have been adapted so many times for film and television that it’s hard to imagine — at least before viewing — what Gatiss and Moffat believe they can bring to the table that is new. As with “Sherlock,” they quickly prove that’s an unnecessary concern. 




“Dracula” has been adapted so many times for film and television that it’s hard to imagine what showrunners believe they can bring to the table that is new. (Supplied)

Second, it’s clear that the pair are, once again, true fans of the source material. They handle it with sensitivity, but not without irreverence — a crucial part of why they do what they do so well. As in “Sherlock,” the tile character’s vulnerabilities are just as much of a focus as his powers.

And third, they find a surprising amount of humor in the material that isn’t always apparent in the originals. Once again, that’s a welcome bonus for viewers. Even if, in the case of “Dracula,” some of that humor is very dark indeed.




In “Dracula,” some of the humor is very dark. (Supplied)

The tale begins in Hungary in 1897. A clearly unwell Englishman called Jonathan Harker finds himself in a convent, where he was taken after some fishermen found him almost (or, not almost) dead. Harker, it turns out, had escaped from Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania and tells the nuns — one in particular; the unconventional Agatha Van Helsing the horrific tale of his time there, featuring vampires and the undead. 

Dracula, of course, comes looking for the escapee. And Van Helsing gets to test many of the theories she has accumulated over the years in her study of the occult. 

To describe any more of the story would be to ruin a magnificent plot twist at the end of episode two. Suffice to say that it’s worth remembering Count Dracula is centuries old and very difficult to kill.




The tale begins in Hungary in 1897. (Supplied)

Danish actor Claes Bang plays the titular villain, and clearly relished the role. By turns sophisticated and savage, sensual and insensitive, Bang’s Dracula is an old-school throwback to Hammer Horror movies and Christopher Lee, but with an arch knowingness that makes him feel utterly modern too. 

His nemesis, Van Helsing, is played by Dolly Wells, who shows off a lovely line in deadpan sarcasm and cavalier courage. 

Once again, Gatiss and Moffat have proven that — in a crowded field — they are capable of creating the definitive adaptation of a classic. 


Bahraini singer Mo Zowayed: ‘I’m not the sad and tortured type’

Mo Zowayed started singing when he was about 25. (Supplied)
Updated 44 min 6 sec ago

Bahraini singer Mo Zowayed: ‘I’m not the sad and tortured type’

  • The Bahraini singer-songwriter discusses his latest album and keeping busy in lockdown

 

MANAMA: Mo Zowayed’s email signature bills him as “Singer. Songwriter. Sleeper.” But the sleeping part of his repertoire is clearly not top of the 31-year-old Bahraini’s agenda.

Even in lockdown he’s busy, having recently taken part in an online concert to raise funds for Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre. (“I don’t know what life would be like without dogs and I’d rather not find out,” he says.) There’s another scheduled for the end of May. 

He’s also just gone live with his “Viola Sessions” — a series of five original tunes from his latest album,  “That Good Love,” released in November, captured at a local club — and he’s performing Instagram Live sessions every Saturday afternoon, besides writing a bunch of new material.

His dad is an oud player and his grandfather Mohamed is a respected folk singer. (Supplied)

It’s no surprise Zowayed ended up as a musician. His dad, Yusuf, is an oud player and his grandfather Mohamed is a respected folk singer. His own musical journey, though, began with a spot of bribery. 

“I started when I was 13. I struggled a bit in seventh grade with my math grades. My parents agreed to buy me a guitar if I managed to turn my grades around,” he says. “It was tough, but I did it. I got the guitar.” He’s now an accomplished player of several instruments, including mandolin, banjo, trumpet, ukulele and harmonica.

He didn’t start singing until he was about 25, though. He cites acoustic artists including Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz and Ben Harper as major influences. “I just loved the way that they could express themselves with just a guitar and (vocals). So, I started practicing like crazy,” he says. 

His own musical journey, though, began with a spot of bribery. (Supplied)

Unlike many regional musicians, he was always set on writing and performing his own material, rather than covers. “I’m still surprised when I meet a good musician who doesn’t write their own stuff,” he says. “For me, it’s the most enjoyable part — there’s no feeling like performing a song you’ve written and having some of the audience singing along.”

Zowayed quickly established himself on the Bahrain music scene. “I started by accepting every single gig. I played everywhere — every little dingy venue. There were some well-known bands in Bahrain, but they played a couple shows a year, tops. I just wanted to put myself out there, and I was one of very few people doing that. What makes me happy is that almost every band in Bahrain is doing that now. We’ve got a community of working musicians who are on stage all the time. I love seeing that.”

His work ethic and determination eventually landed him an American tour — something few independent musicians from the Middle East manage to achieve. “I spent months emailing, calling and messaging venues in the US. I must have contacted over 100 venues and festivals. I didn’t give up, even after 50 rejections — no exaggeration. I just kept trying.

He cites acoustic artist Ben Harper as a major influence. (AFP)

“Eventually I was offered a spot at Farmfest in Michigan. That gave me the motivation to keep trying to book shows. We played in Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Nashville, Alabama and Ohio. It was the most surreal time.”

From there, Zowayed and his “incredible band” The Moonshiners, got offered a support slot for UK star Jools Holland at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in 2017. “I just can’t overstate how magical that night was,” he says. In December last year, he and The Moonshiners were back on tour with Holland and played several shows of their own in the UK to support the release of “The Good Love.”

He cites acoustic artist Jason Mraz as a major influence. (AFP)

That album has evolved from the folky roots of Zowayed’s debut EP “New York Times,” partly because he’s playing an electric guitar, but he describes it as a natural progression. 

“I really wanted to make an upbeat record, because that’s the kind of music I’m into these days. I’m a pretty upbeat guy,” he says. “I’m not the sad and tortured type, and I’ve realized that’s okay, I don’t need to be.  As soon as I embraced that, the songs started pouring out. The result is an album that gets me excited every time I hear it.” 

Zowayed’s goal is to be a touring musician, and he recognizes that that could mean leaving the GCC. “It’s simply not possible in the Middle East when it comes to non-Arabic music,” he says. 

But his local fans don’t need to worry just yet. “I’m on a mission to put out as much music and as many videos as I can and play as many shows as possible,” he says. “And I hope to see everyone at a live show once we kick this virus in the behind.”