★★★★★ | The Exorcist was a frightening occasion with jumps, bumps, and lights were left on in my home.
The original ‘The Exorcist’ written by William Peter Blatty brought horror to U.K. cinemas in the 1970’s being banned in most of them, for people fainted, were sick and were left immobilised from the terror. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre developed the play version alongside Bill Kenwright, and playwright John Pielmeier for a U.K. premiere which happened on the 21st October.
I was stunned immediately by the ambition of the set design and special effects used throughout the play. I previously thought it would be a play that was going to be hard to get a scared out of as you knew what was going to happen, as well as you are not manipulated by the sounds and editing that you normally experience in a film. However, The Birmingham Rep’s ‘The Exorcist’ took you by surprise and you daren’t bat an eyelid. The illusionist setting and apparition of the evil spirit were special effects you would see in a film now. The illusion design was masterfully developed by Ben Hart. The way the walls appeared to move and the dark cloud traveling along the set as the demon were just otherworldly!
The performance, delivered by the cast, matched the effects with equal conviction with Regan, in particular, played by Clare Louise Connoly, shining brilliantly. Clare’s multifaceted portrayal of Regan was sublime, and delivered every ounce with dexterity. She surpassed herself when becoming possessed with ambitious physicality and movement that contributed to the eerie ambience of the production. Jenny Seagrove played Chris, Regan’s mother, and played her emotions very authentically as well as showcasing anger and fear very intelligently.
Peter Bowl’s Father Merrin stole the show for me. He played the Father quietly, confidently, and made the audience feel at ease as the one who was going to solve the puzzle. An incredibly gifted actor whose short time on stage provided entertainment to the last second, and the audience hung onto every word he said. The flamboyant character Burke, played by Tristram Wymark, had genial comedic timing. A couple of times leaving some audience members in hysterics. Adam Garcia contributed to the sombre mood of the play with his portrayal of Father Karras, whose mother had been ‘taken by the devil’, and had died from the event.
It was a well-accomplished production, with effects that could not be believed were possible, acting that was on point, with all characters providing an air of mystery and suspense; and the effects that made the audience jump, which to me was a treat that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
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