THE EXORCIST, 4Star****, Birmingham, To 5 November

THE EXORCIST: John Pielmeier, based on the novel by William Peter Blatty

Birmingham Rep Main House to Sat 5th November 2016
Runs: Approximately 2h, one interval
BO: 0121 236 4455

Review Alexander Ray Edser, 26 October

A thunderingly good show
Birmingham Rep have entered into the season of general witchiness and dark goings-on with an adaptation of the film regularly voted as the scariest film ever. I saw the film in 1973 and mighty terrifying it was. It was with some trepidation that I went to see the Rep’s production, then. But they truly pull it off – just not quite in the way you might expect.

The Rep team have carefully avoided the aim of trying to match the gut-wrenching horror of the film and have cleverly avoided the temptation to camp it up. Pielmeier’s adaptation is faithful to the book and Mathias’s production is faithful to that.

The pleasure in watching the production is three-fold. There is the pleasure of hearing a story we know and love to fear being told in a fresh way (which appeals our the child deep within us.) There is the puzzle of How will do it? Minute by minute the design team and others thrill us with their theatrical skill. And there is the pleasure too in watching the strong company play it out, live. Having said this, we shouldn’t ignore there are plenty of bumps, clumps and flashes to shock and surprise.

Clare Louise Connolly does a fine job as Regan, the daughter. She convinces as 12 and has a fine physicality and range of vocal skills as she motors through the story. Jenny Seagrove has some terrific moments as mother, Chris, hitting high emotional climaxes.

The naturally episodic nature of the story-telling mitigates against us being drawn into the story in the way the film is able to do, but we are, without doubt held in its spell.

And a final word for the Devil, who, in this case may not have the best tunes but certainly has the best lines. Played by an unnamed but instantly recognisable guest, it’s a wicked, wicked portrayal, true icing on this cake

Peter Bowles: Father Merrin
Clare Louise Connolly: Regan
Jenny Seagrove: Chris
Joseph Wilkins: Father Joe
Adam Garcia: Father Damien Karras
Tristram Wymark: Burke
Mitchell Mullen: Doctor Klein
Todd Boyce: Doctor Strong

Sean Mathias: Director
Anna Fleishle: Production Designer
Tim Mitchell: Lighting Designer
Adam McCormack: Composer and Sound Designer
Duncan MacLean: Video and Projection Designer

2016-10-27 20:20:28

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