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Just what it the truth about Dracula? Was he really an excessively frightening vampire or some sort of cross-dressing, bumbling fool?

An Otago-based performance company, Sahara Breeze, is touring Central Otago to lift the lid on the “lies” allegedly told by novelist Bram Stoker in his 1897 gothic masterpiece, Dracula.

The play, Dracula – The Bloody Truth, by British playwrights Le Navet Bete and John Nicholson, is a spoof and a giggle, actor Blaise Barham says.

Mr Barham and his wife Sarah are long-time Queenstown residents but have moved to Dunedin so they can complete post graduate theatre studies.

The former United Kingdom residents arrived in New Zealand in 1999.

“We came out on holiday, like everyone else, and fell in love with it and stayed,” Mr Barham said.

They joined in with Queenstown’s theatrical community, set up the Southern Lakes English Language College and also taught at the Southern Institute of Technology’s campus in Invercargill.

A few years after Mr and Mrs Barham settled in Queenstown, Mr Barham’s parents, John and Francoise Barham, also decided to move to the other side of the world.

They chose to live in Cromwell, where John Barham – also a performer throughout his life – got involved in theatre shows, the Clyde Theatre company and the Central Otago Regional Choir.

Mr Barham said he and his wife formed Sahara Breeze as a touring company in 2019 and cast the 85-year-old John Barham in their first production, Dear Lupin, by Michael Simkins.

The tour of Dracula The Bloody Truth represented a tribute to his father, who died earlier this year, he said.

It is their fourth touring production, after Two (written by Jim Cartwright) and Renewal, a play written about the Queenstown and Wanaka experiences with Covid-19 and performed in Wanaka last year.

Set three years after Stoker’s book was published, Mr Barham’s character, the theatre-hating Professor Van Helsing, tries to stage a life-changing, factual, theatrical production about Dracula.

Mr Barham said a Monty-Pythonesque experience ensues as a play within a play unfolds on stage.

“If you know The Play That Goes Wrong, it is a similar ilk to that,” Mr Barham said.

Dracula – The Bloody Truth . . . Marty Newell, Nathan Cook, Blaise Barham and Sarah Barham of Sahara Breeze Productions. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

To make it even more complicated and hilarious, the four actors Mrs Barham, Queenstown’s Marty Newell and Dunedin’s Nathan Cook, perform 32 characters between them.

“It is absolutely mad. The costume changes are exceptional.

“The hardest is getting into the vampire bride outfit because of the veils and the dress and that’s a super, super fast changeover,” Mr Barham said.

Dracula, The Bloody Truth is directed by Chris Cook, of Dunedin, and John Goudge, of Auckland.

The producer is Dunedin’s Jordan Wichman.

The play has already been to the Mayfair Theatre in Dunedin.

It is at the Arrowtown Athenaeum from November 25-28 and the Wanaka Lake Centre from December 3-4.

It is supported by the Central Lakes Trust, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Creative NZ.