We all have a shadow. Whether we are aware of our capacity for darkness or not, it exists within us. ‘The Shadow’ is a concept developed by psychiatrist Carl Jung, and it alludes to the unconscious mind, the ‘dark side’ of ourselves, the parts of ourselves we choose to reject and repress. Whether it be aggression, sexual desires we deem to be unacceptable, the things we deeply fear, shameful thoughts, or immoral impulses, the mind works extremely hard to convince us that such darkness doesn’t exist. And for many of us, it works. Seeing ‘The Shadow’ within is extremely difficult for this reason.
Defence mechanisms employed by the ego then come into play in order to protect us from our own shameful, ugly impulses. I’ve been particularly fascinated by ‘Projection’. Apparently the ego protects itself by subconsciously projecting unwanted and difficult emotions onto others. Traits we dislike in others can be very useful to notice, because it can often be an indication of a trait we are rejecting in ourselves. This is very much the case for Mina (the character I play in Dracula) whose journey through this story maps her relationship to her identity, through the discovery of her shadow self. Who is she? What is she capable of?
Mina seeks the help of Professor Van Helsing after experiencing violently sexual dreams about a man she does not recognise, a man who is not her husband. Her immediate response is that it must be because she is grieving for her friend Lucy, who has recently passed away.
She is ashamed. She has always believed herself to be good. She strives to be a good person, as well as a good wife to her husband Jonathan. The couple are newly married at the beginning of the play, but both are struggling to connect and communicate after Jonathan has returned traumatised from his trip to Romania. Both are grappling and battling with their shadow selves and their identities, and it is through Dracula that they discover and explore the parts of themselves they have always repressed. Through Dracula, Mina is invited to explore and enjoy her sexuality, as well as her aggression. Her need to please others and to be ‘good’ means that she feels ashamed of her anger. This is probably true for many women, and it’s certainly something I can relate to. But without our aggression, we wouldn’t have the capacity to say no, to create strong boundaries, to stand up for injustices or to develop assertiveness. Much of what can be found in the shadow can be extremely useful. It can help us become whole, as opposed to ‘good.’
Being whole means embracing the darkness that is within you, as well as the light. In this production, Dracula represents the vitality and aliveness that comes with the joy in being whole. Facing up to our shadow takes a lot of work and it can be extremely unpleasant. But it’s important to know what we are capable of, in order to be honest. I’ve noticed that each character I’ve sought to understand and play has taught me something about myself. This particular take on Dracula made me think about my own shadow. There are, of course, many things I think and feel that cause me shame. I have also started to realise that I’ve spent much of my time trying my absolute best to not do any harm. I think I’ve somehow taught myself that not doing harm is moral and the best way to get through life. I get hugely anxious about offending others and tend to overthink social interactions because the thought of someone not liking me makes me feel absolutely awful. But it is impossible to be harmless. It is also not particularly wise, because in order to speak the truth of who we are, we have to risk doing harm, we have to risk causing offence. That’s what makes us dangerous, alive, and unique. Our voice is our power. And giving yourself permission to speak your truth gives others permission to do the same. I am understanding more and more that I love acting because it gives me a voice where I feel I don’t know how to use my own. So basically vampires can help us find our power. Of course vampires are also extremely sexy. Which is always helpful…
- Written by – Sophie Greenham – Actor – parts played in Dracula Mina | Lucy | Reinfield | Dr Seward | Dracula |