- Lorna Irvine
- 1 October 2019
Horror stage adaptation fails to thrill
John Pielmeier's stage version of William Peter Blatty's classic horror throws everything at the production to ensure jumps from the audience.
From the lighting crashes and drones throughout by Adam Cork, to the beautiful gothic set design by Anna Fleischle and scurrying rats projections by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington, its tech savvy relies on freaking out those of a nervous disposition. If only the play itself could be as effective.
From the syrupy set up, where young Regan (Susannah Edgley) and her mother (a one note Sophie Ward) hunker down in their new home, to Regan's demonic possession (complete with impishly evil voiceover from no less than Ian McKellen as the Devil) the trajectory is heavy on exposition, with a join-the-dots narrative riddled with clichés.
There are a few nice touches, such as a pulsing backdrop when Regan is fully taken over by her Satanic host, but a cast of actors with wandering accents – Paul Nicholas as Father Merrin is hardly even audible at times – fail to convince or create any real tension. Only Tristram Wymark as the Ken Russell-like Burke Dennis is worth caring about, with lots of dark and dissolute charisma.
Even the subtext of the fear of Regan's blossoming pubescence is quickly overlooked in favour of yet more trickery.
The result is essentially an extended Metallica video. The devil may have the best tunes, but as a piece of theatre, it's sorely lacking, and there are not enough Hail Marys to redeem it.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 21 Sep; King's Theatre, Edinburgh Mon 4–Sat 9 Nov, and touring.