Words by Ed King
On Friday 21st October, the UK stage première of The Exorcist opens at the Birmingham REP – as presented by REP in association with Bill Kenwright.
Running until Saturday 5th November, evening performances of The Exorcist will be held every day except Sunday – with matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays, excluding 22nd October.
Standard tickets are priced from £15 with a reduced £10 standard charge for the opening two preview nights. N.B. At the time of writing Sat 22nd October is sold out. For direct details on show times and tickets, click here.
So… how are they going to make her head spin round, live on stage? That and other production challenges have been floating around (no pun intended) the Birmingham Review editorial bike shed since we first saw the REP had bagged this UK debut.
John Pielmeier, a man with experience bringing evils alive on stage and on screen (spiritual or otherwise), started adapting William Peter Blatty’s 1970’s horror stalwart back in early 2008. The first, and to date only, run of The Exorcist stage play launched at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles four years later – starring Brooke Shields as Chris MacNeil, Richard Chamberlain as Father Merrin, and David Wilson Barnes as Father Damien Karras.
‘Mixed reviews’ was the polite response (along with ‘but the audience enjoyed it’) with director John Doyle telling the LA Times “We can’t do what the movie did. We’re having to find a theatrical storytelling language that helps us — and hopefully the audience — to find a way of inhabiting the world of the play and the novel that doesn’t use the imagery that is now so iconic to people.” So that answers my head spinning question.
Doyle also cast a 23year old UCLA graduate, Emily Yetter, as the 12 year old demonically possessed Regan – reportedly to protect the more sensitive audience members from youthful profanity. This raises another question, why he took the job in the first place considering a tortured adolescence is at the centre of the narrative? John Pielmeier has further stated ‘I did a major re-write, refocusing the script entirely’ for The Exorcist’s sophomore stage production.
But with seasoned director Sean Mathias now at the helm, British theatre goers will no doubt be spared such artistic mollycoddling. A credible track record on both stage and screen, Mathias is arguably as a safe pair of hands as any – albeit not steeped in quite so much blood (…gore, searing flesh, projectile vomiting). Alongside a solid cast, The Exorcist‘s reborn on stage presence is a genuinely/potentially quite exciting affair.
And with The Exorcist‘s opening UK run being held in Birmingham, I don’t think a swearing 12 year old will turn too many heads. Again, no pun intended. Well maybe a little.
The Exorcist – Official trailer, UK stage production
Cast: Jenny Seagrove (Chris MacNeil), Peter Bowles (Father Merrin), Adam Garcia (Father Damien Karras), Clare Louise Connolly (Regan MacNeil), Todd Boyce (Doctor Strong), Mitchell Mullen (Doctor Klein), Joseph Wilkins (Father Joe), Tristram Wymark (Burke)
Crew: Sean Mathias (Director). Anna Fleischle (Designer), Tim Mitchell (Lighting Designer), Adam Cork (Composer & Sound Designer), Duncan McLean (Video & Projection Designer), Ben Hart (Illusions).
Accessible Performances: Audio Described Performance – Tues 1st Nov, 7.30pm / Captioned Performance – Weds 2nd Nov, 7.30pm / BSL Interpreted Performance – Thurs 3rd Nov, 7.30pm (Interpreted by Harjit Jagdev)
The Exorcist was written by William James Blatty – adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.
For more on The Exorcist at the Birmingham REP, visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/the-exorcist
For more from the Birmingham REP, visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk
For more from Bill Kenwright, visit www.kenwright.com