The Exorcist theatre review: The classic 1973 movie is adapted for the London stage for a West End run, booking until March 2018.
The Exorcist theatre review by Andrew Gaudion.
Dare you enter the Phoenix Theatre from now until March to see John Pielmeier and Sean Mathias’ stage adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist? If you, like one of many, have been chilled to the bone by the film/the book/ the real-life inspiration that has come to embody The Exorcist over time then you may be wondering if your poor soul can truly take anymore. If you decide against it, you would be missing out on a devilishly fun time at the West End!
Those familiar with The Exorcist will be surprised how much of the film and the book has made it to the stage. While most of the action takes place within the house of movie actress Chris (Jenny Seagrove) and her possessed daughter Regan (Clare Louise Connolly), the production finds room to develop locations, backstories, and subplots beyond the confine of one location. We are whisked to the Middle East to find Father Merrin (Peter Bowles) tormented by a demon he has once battled with, we witness Father Damien Karras (Adam Garcia) torture himself over the death of his mother within a number of locations. All are articulated within corners of the stage, made distinctive by ingenious lighting and sets that are expertly put into place and whisked away just as smoothly by on-the-ball stagehands throughout the show.
The use of dizzying strobe lighting and thunderously crashing sound effects to throw you in and out of scenes amongst various locations enables The Exorcist to build a surmounting feeling of dread and construct an unnerving atmosphere of tense anticipation. You can almost sense the lighting and sound designers giggling as they incite jumps and shrieks from the crowd as the threat grows bigger and Regan becomes more and more lost to the powers of the Devil inside her.
Everyone will surely arrive with a certain morbid curiosity as to exactly how this stage adaption will mount and execute some of the more iconic moments of the film and novel, namely of the head-spinning, body-bending, bile-spewing variety. I won’t give too much away, but the means in which a number of these moments are handled prove surprising and genuinely baffling as to how exactly the action has been performed. In some cases, it is a little obvious, but largely the action flows with an impressive ease, accentuated by some exceptionally creepy projections and illusions.
The cast turn in perfectly adequate performances, selling the drama without forgetting to have a sense of humour about the proceedings. Connolly as Regan is the stand-out, putting in a brave and fearless performance that is as physically demanding as it is emotional. She works incredibly well matching up with the pre-recorded dialogue of the demon, from one Sir Ian McKellen. Perhaps the greatest thrill of the whole production is McKellen’s vocal performance, his thespian tones oozing with seductive malice throughout. You’ll derive a strange amount of pleasure from hearing that famous voice spout lines such as ‘your mother sucks cock in Hell.’
The Exorcist is a highly enjoyable, jump-inducing thrill-ride of a theatre experience, one which holds many a surprise and a strong sense of ingenuity when it comes to performing visual effects on stage. Not everything quite pulls off and it is let down by a couple of performances which lack a little conviction, but this remains an essential experience for any horror fan out there, particularly for devotees of The Exorcist. Go forth and let the power of theatre compel you!
The Exorcist theatre review by Andrew Gaudion, October 2017.
The Exorcist is booking to 10 March 2018.