The last time Annie Kirkman took to the stage at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre she played a party girl getting all dolled-up for a day at the races.

Next week she returns to the theatre playing, among other characters, The Prince of Darkness.

For Annie will take the lead role in the fast-paced comedy Dracula: The Bloody Truth which is being produced in conjunction with the Stephen Joseph Theatre at Scarborough.

It’s the work of one of the UK’s leading touring physical comedy theatre companies, La Navet Bete, and John Nicholson, who co-wrote previous Octagon productions The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Time Machine.

“It is an absolutely bonkers show in a brilliant way,” said Annie, who was at the Octagon last year in Ladies Day. “It’s a play within a play as you have a bunch of actors re-telling the story of Dracula under the direction of Van Helsing who believes that the story everyone knows is completely wrong.

“He’s telling the truth as he sees it and we’re helping bring that story to life.”

Dracula is fast-paced to the point of being manic. The cast of four play 40 different characters between them.

“I’ve got seven characters so I get off quite lightly,” said Annie. “But then again I am Dracula.

“It’s so much fun to play as he is an over the top character, very much in the style of the classic old horror films. And the fact that I am a woman playing him allows me to have fun in the way I interact with the other characters.”

Regular Octagon audiences will recognise one of Annie’s fellow cast members - Killian Macardle who was recently in Animal Farm.

“The play is really silly and we have been taking the characters to the extreme in rehearsal - we have laughed so much. I’m not sure who we will get through it when we get to the stage,” said Annie.

“It’s been great fun to play with the idea that we are playing actors who are bringing the play to life. It gives you even more freedom because you are sort of acting through a third party if that makes sense.

“The group we play are very keen but not very experienced. They are so excited to be telling this story but not everything goes to plan.

“But Van Helsing is not a fan of the theatre and gets really frustrated with when their theatrical side keeps coming out.

“Things go wrong and it all gets a bit frantic at times. I’d say it is a very modern farce as the speed at which is all happens keeps everyone on their toes.”

The show retains many of the elements of the original Bram Stoker Dracula but combines it with theatrical mayhem, including elements associated with hit shows such as The Play That Goes Wrong.

The frenetic nature of the show puts extra pressure on the performers.

“You want to have it appearing as though everything is chaos when it is actually extremely disciplined,” said Annie. “You have to be so well-rehearsed for something like this. I appeared in Hound of the Baskervilles by the same writers and it’s all about repetition in rehearsal, making sure you know exactly where all those comedy beats are.

“You want to make it appear chaotic but slick rather than genuine madness.”

Working at such a frenetic pace is both physically and mentally demanding for the actors.

“We know it’s going to be knackering,” laughed Annie. “We have been having pretty intense warm-ups to get our fitness levels to where they need to be.

“But this show is a real marathon. I think the longest I’m ever off stage is about a minute or so. That makes even getting a quick drink of water a challenge. And the costume changes have to be so slick. We have a team waiting in the wings to help us out.

“If nothing else I think the audience will come away thinking ‘wow. they worked hard’ but I’m pretty sure they will get far more from it than that.

“It’s a lot of fun and offers a great night of entertainment which I feel that is what audiences want at the moment, the way that the world is.

“It will be a really good night where you can expect to have a proper belly laugh and just enjoy yourselves. That’s the theatre I love to do. It’s so rewarding when audiences have a thoroughly good time.”

And playing Dracula gives Annie the opportunity to return to Bolton and stay with family in the area during the run.

“It’s always nice to return somewhere you have played before,” she said. “Very often you are just getting your bearings and the show’s over. But I loved it when I was in Bolton last year

“It’s also good to come back to a theatre you have worked in before. I loved being in the Octagon. It’s a great space and the audiences were so generous for Ladies’ Day. I think Bolton audiences are going to love Dracula.

“When you are working away from home it’s nice to have that familiarity.”

“For this production the audience will be on three sides as we’re sort of honouring that vaudeville theatre tradition from the turn of the last century when this is set, so that’s going to be interesting.”

Dracula: The Bloody Truth is at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, from Tuesday, June 11 to Saturday, June 29. Details from