Misery Written by Stephen King Adapted by Simon Moore Directed by D. Michael Dobbin Performed by Karen Skidmore & Geoffrey Whynot Grand Theatre, London February 17 to March 7, 2009
Live! On Stage! By Mary Alderson
Madness is contagious in the Grand’s latest production, the Stephen King thriller, Misery. We first realize that Annie is crazy when we learn that she hasn’t called an ambulance despite the seriousness of Paul Sheldon’s injuries. Her descent into madness progresses; however, throughout the story she relates bits and pieces of her past and we understand that her inability to deal with life is not new. The play takes some disturbing twists and turns, and we see Paul slip precariously in and out of madness with Annie. Annie, as portrayed by Karen Skidmore, claims to be a former nurse and the number one fan of Sheldon, a writer of romance novels. When she finds him unconscious after an automobile accident, she decides to nurse his injuries. As a fanatical reader of his romance novels, Annie forces Paul to write the next book in the series to her liking. Geoffrey Whynot’s Paul seems sane enough, but when pushed to the edge by Annie’s mental illness, Whynot totters at the limits. Both Skidmore and Whynot play the roles very well. Her madness is convincing, as his addiction to painkillers. At times, humour is created by the insane actions and the audience laughs, albeit nervously. Grand theatre-goers are not used to seeing hideous violence on their stage, and there is some obvious discomfort. While the acting is excellent, the props are outstanding. The blood and gore is very convincing, and leaves little to the imagination. Credit goes to John Dinning for an outstanding set. The home, with an attractive exterior, revolves to reveal an interior where evil lurks in the rather ordinary looking rooms. Louise Guinand’s lighting adds to the mystery as the story unfolds. Director D. Michael Dobbin has done an excellent job of taking Stephen King’s story, which was easily transformed into a movie, and giving it life on stage. The horror is very real. So if this play is so well done, why didn’t I like it? Well, for the same reason that I put down a Stephen King book after just a few chapters. I don’t find the genre entertaining. And it’s not that I expect every theatre production to be amusing and uplifting. I certainly found last year’s presentation of Hana’s Suitcase very disturbing, but it was also a gripping education with redeeming value. I didn’t find much value in Misery’s story. But those who enjoy horror will appreciate this production. Misery continues at the Grand Theatre in London until March 7. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593.
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.