More Detail on How BEYOND 1984 Will Build on our Prior Work
Thank you for viewing this attachment for our BEYOND 1984 funding application

Our most recent project was DOCTOR DRACULA. Funded by The Wellcome Trust and produced in partnership with Exeter University and the National Trust, this was Four of Swords’ most ambitious and highest-budgeted project to date. Here is our evaluation film for the project:

DOCTOR DRACULA feeds into our proposal for BEYOND 1984 in the following ways:

  • Immersive storytelling
    Right from our first production, JEKYLL & HYDE in 2013, we have sought to break the traditional barriers between performers and guests, and to place our audiences squarely in the thick of the action. With DOCTOR DRACULA, the two halves of the audience followed different main characters and experienced the story from opposing perspectives. We also created special inclusive moments for random, lucky individuals, such as being invited by our actors to dance in the Masquerade Ball scene. BEYOND 1984 seeks to expand on this. We want to create complementary and symbiotic experiences for live and remote audiences, as well as provide the facility for online audience members to customise their viewing experiences.

  • Film-making
    We had to adapt our plan for the second run of DOCTOR DRACULA because of the pandemic. We ended up filming key scenes from the production, clips from which are featured in the evaluation film above. Film-making and video installation has always been key components of our work, and BEYOND 1984 would enable us to more deeply explore the integration of film and live theatre, to be innovative and experimental, and to create something truly unique.

  • Innovative adaptation
    We have also been developing the way in which we respond to and interpret our source texts. Rather than a straight adaptation of any one vampire story, DOCTOR DRACULA was an ambitious fusion of different texts with science history and cutting-edge medical information. Our agenda to demystify blood conditions, promote awareness and drive recruitment for important medical endeavours gave the work special relevance and value. With BEYOND 1984 we want to continue this approach to adaptation, underlining the links between Orwell’s tale and technology today, especially the ways in which it influences politics and social behaviour. We also want to promote the importance of challenging online sources of information, and protecting one’s self from digital exploitation.

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DOCTOR DRACULA is an immersive, multi-media theatre experience, which examines the symbolic role of blood in mythology, religion and literature, and how it intersects with a cutting-edge, medical understanding of blood in the 21st century.

The production presents a darkly magical vampiric world, bridging diverse time periods, and informed by the academic research of Prof. Nick Groom and Dr Luke Pilling of Exeter University.

In October and November 2019, the show completed a sold out run at the National Trust’s magnificent KNIGHTSHAYES COURT. In February 2020, DOCTOR DRACULA will run for two weeks at ASHTON COURT MANSION, in Bristol.

Dates: 18th-28th March Times: 7.30pm
(2.30pm Sat Matinée) Price: £17.50

Location: Ashton Court, Long Ashton, Bristol BS41 9JN


An exceptional piece which fully immerses us in the pain of love, disease and living. Dr Dracula guarantees we won’t forget the importance of blood any time soon.
Katrina Bennett, Razz Magazine

Thank you so much for an absolutely brilliant performance last night — entertaining and informative!
Audience Feedback

Enjoyed this so much, it was awesome! Honestly was blown away by the last scene outside.
Audience Feedback

Another part of DOCTOR DRACULA’s remit is to raise awareness of genetic conditions such as haemochromatosis, which is caused by an overload of iron in the blood, and found in about one in 200 people in the UK. However, only about one case in 5000 is ever diagnosed. A simple prevention and cure for haemochromatosis is to give blood (which can be safely used by the NHS as a usual donation). In addition, the performances promote NHS blood donation and subscription to the Exeter 10,000 research project.

photos by Rhodri Cooper and Matt Austin Images


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