Theatre review: Shut Up I’m a Vampire

A powerful solo performance that trades in metaphor to explain the horrors of a particular night.

Shut Up I’m a Vampire writer and performer Jessica Stanley begins her show by informing the audience she’s about tell a story, or at least try to piece one together, by ‘going back to the start’. What follows is an hour-long hypnotising, poetic, rhythmic monologue.

A highly intimate and disturbing narrative unfolds, representing the lengths our minds will go to in order to come to terms with, and process, traumatic events. Sophie (Stanley’s character) begins by describing a house party, a wild and carefree night out with her friends to celebrate a work promotion. Naturally, lots of booze is consumed, there’s dancing and budding romances.

But the night takes a dark turn after she goes outside the party house and discovers a runaway cat and a strange man. The next few hours are a blur, and in the days and weeks that follow, Sophie skips work, becomes distant from friends, develops a lack of self-care, and depression.

Taking stock of her symptoms, including what appears to be bite marks on her neck, she concludes that the only explanation for these dramatic irregularities in body and mind must be because she’s turned into a vampire.

The vampire story is a clever analogy for what it’s like dealing with a traumatic event. Sophie says she died that night, which captures the seriousness of the violation of women’s very being that occurs when we are subjected to male violence. Her psyche reignites childhood fantasies of pretending to be a vampire as a coping strategy.

Stanley’s script is intelligent and emotive and she performs the hour-long monologue with great artistic skill. The prose is highly descriptive and moving. She succeeds bringing the audience along in every excruciating detail. At times it is reminiscent of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character in Fleabag in the ways she attempts to mask her trauma with avoidance and dry humour. Women can relate to having to be hypervigilant when out at night, intoxicated, or just anywhere, because of the threat of male violence. 

James Cerché provides the soundtrack with guitar, drum machine and vocal sounds. From improvised strumming and plucking, to blues riffs and dull thudding drumbeats, he creates tension and dramatic effect. He also plays the character of Sophie’s cat-owner/perpetrator.

The staging is minimal, just Stanley positioned in the middle and Cerché to her side with guitar, pedals and mic. They rarely move from these positions. Lighting highlights Sophie’s face for expression – warm and glowing when she’s excited, colder when the tone is severe.

There are many relatable references to Vampire films texts from Dracula and all its incarnations, to Queen of the Damned, The Lost Boys, and even Scooby Doo, but one need not be a horror aficionado to relate. 

Read: Theatre review: This Is Where We Live

When Sophie starts to recall the reality of what happened on the night of the party, the vampire fantasy is shattered and the rawness of emotions is revealed. It is powerful scene and Stanley is brilliant. She realises her perpetrator is not a monster in the way she thought, and even says what happened to her is boring, capturing the stark but truthful fact that her story is so common.

Shut Up I’m a Vampire is an intelligent and powerful show by a remarkable artist.

Shut Up I’m a Vampire
Spinning Plates Production
Written and performed by Jessica Stanley
Original music: James Cerché
Butterfly Club

Tickets: $30-$37

Shut Up I’m a Vampire will be performed until 16 October 2022 as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival

Sarah Liversidge is a journalist and writer from Melbourne with various obsessions including politics, social issues and art in all its forms. She is currently completing a journalism degree at RMIT university where she is an editor at the student run publication, The Swanston Gazette.