The Exorcist at The Regent – will have you jumping out of your seat in the first thirty seconds – Review by Mel Osbourne.
The reputation of the 1973 Exorcist film has always gone before it, and even if you have not seen this iconic, once banned film you will be familiar with some of the most horrifying moments – such as head spinning and vomiting pea soup.
Going into the show at The Regent I had mixed feelings and was quite nervous about what to expect – I am a cynic about horror – but in the first thirty seconds of the show starting I had jumped out of my seat, screamed and gripped my husbands hand tighter than I ever have in my life.
Regan is a 12 year old girl, settling into her new home whilst her film star mother is making a movie. Regan is a sweet and loving daughter until she finds a Ouija board in her attic and things start to change. Her mother Chris – played by Sophie Ward – is a movie star busy filming her latest production.
The story isn’t complex. Regan entertains herself by playing with the board and making a new ‘friend’. She is then possessed by a demon, voiced by Sir Ian McKellen’s powerful bass. Susannah Edgley as Regan gives a compelling performance, and she is terrifying. The exorcist is played by Paul Nicholas who gives an utterly compelling portrayal of Father Merrin. The play boasts a very strong cast who all give excellent performances, notably Ben Caplan as Father Damien Karras.
To bring a film from the seventies into the year 2019 while adding a fresh approach is a challenge. I am not sure it could ever be remade as a film but somehow as a play it works. There are numerous effects used and they prey on the uncertainty of the darkness. There are many blackouts and intense strobe lighting used throughout, somewhat excessively at times. The set is based on their house and Regan’s room is small and wonderfully creepy. Observance is key, as there are many effects using imagery and shadows. Listening to the audience there were many who were terrified, and I felt my hand still shaking after the first half.
I thought this was a brave tribute to the Exorcist story. There are some elements of the script that touch on cheesy, but it needs embracing with humour and love as to change the script would compromise the story. I am a sceptic about horror, but the power of the theatre and fear of the unknown made this play incredibly intense. I relaxed towards the end but beware of getting into a false sense of security! The show rightly received a standing ovation. I would certainly recommend this show but not to the easily scared, however for a true lover of horror you will not be disappointed.
**The Exorcist is at The Regent in Hanley until Saturday 5 October. For tickets go to www.atgtickets.com/stoke or telephone 0844 871 7649.