Last weekend I was down in Christchurch and was invited to see a play at the Court Theatre. I knew the essence of the story from seeing the film in the early ‘nineties. My son insisted I see it, as he thought it time I experienced a horror movie. Misery the play, like the film, was adapted from the book by Stephen King. I wondered whether the play adaptation might seem dated as years had slipped by since the book and the film appeared. However, the reviews for the play were very positive, and I stepped into the theatre on Saturday night looking forward to a second spooky experience.
Now, I am going to rave here, as this was one of the best theatrical performances I’d seen for some time. All aspects worked in harmony, from the set, lighting, sound and acting. Sensibly the play began with the bedroom inside Annie Wilkes’ house, after she has negotiated a snowstorm and rescued a man from a car crash. He is author Paul Sheldon, and his legs are broken. The phone lines and power are down, and ex-nurse Annie is the perfect person to take care of the injured author, for she is after all ‘his number one fan’.
The set is perfect. Surrounding the revolving stage are stricken leafless trees, stark against the piled up ‘snow’ on their boughs and around their base. We are able to see the bedroom, the kitchen and the outside walls of Annie’s home. There is not a note wrong, such is the attention to detail; from the wallpaper, furniture, to the lighting and music, which all help build a sinister mood. The creatives who went into making this production one that will be hard to beat deserve congratulations: Director Dan Bain; Designer Harold Moot; Lighting designer Giles tanner; Sound designer Andy Manning; Costume designer Hayley Douglas; Stage managers Jo Bunce and Rachel Pugh.
Right from the start we know Annie is Paul Sheldon’s biggest fan, as she re-iterates this many times, in many ways. Lara Macgregor plays the lead, and she is utterly convincing. It must be hard to have a role which demands such a range of behaviours; from the believable, trustworthy kindly nurse, whose character unfolds to reveal the layers of a deeply disturbed woman, with kindness being the last thing on her mind.
It is difficult to watch the scenes where Annie picks up the sledgehammer (it’s real) and smashes the invalid’s ankles. The audience gasped that’s for sure. Paul Sheldon (Gavin Rutherford) made us wince and call out often, as he tries to escape the room and her clutches. Oh yes, Misery is certainly an intense psychological thriller, right up to the last. The scenes when Buster the sheriff (Adam Brookfield) starts sniffing around, and the audience thinks he’s going to rumble Annie Wilkes, and he doesn’t, is intense. Now, in case anyone is planning to see the play I can’t say much more. It closes this coming Saturday night, the 25th August. I urge those in Christchurch who have time on their hands to roll up to the Court Theatre. You’ll just love Misery. I know I did, and do you know, that’s because I am Annie Wilkes biggest fan.
Thanks Lara (Annie). Love, Vivienne (Mum).