The Exorcist is a stage adaptation of the 1979 film of the same name, currently running at The King’s Theatre from 5th-9th November. The piece follows movie star Chris MacNeil (portrayed by Sophie Ward) struggling to cope with the fact that her newly adolescent daughter Regan (Susannah Edgley) is possessed by satan himself (the voice of Ian McKellen, would you believe!) The play is a highly technical, fright-filled homage to the cult horror hit.
The production maintains the same level of utterly enjoyable nonsense as the film, with a charming wink of self-awareness as it throws the audience from ridiculous special effects to excessively repetitive jump scares. Despite a few technical hitches, the fluidity of the production itself is undeniable, especially the transitions between the scenes and those crazy demonic shenanigans that transpire in Regan’s bedroom. Anna Fleischle’s set is immersive and effective in capturing the chaos of the plot. When accompanied by sinister lighting through stained glass windows and persistent murmuring playing throughout the audience entering the theatre, the tense atmosphere is formed before the lights even go down.
Sophie Ward leads the production well as Chris MacNeil, displaying a realistic representation of motherly trauma in the face of such absurd circumstances. Ben Caplan as Father Damien Karras displays a performance as effective as possible with what he was dealt, however the script constantly circled around the backstory of the characters without shining a light on the depth required to relate, making him seem as insignificant as the most minor characters. Susannah Edgley’s performance as Regan MacNeil is wonderfully eerie and spine-tingling. It would appear that Edgley is the only member of the cast that didn’t need to rely on technical gimmicks to create the tension and fear in the room.
One of the best things about The Exorcist is also one of its greatest disservices. The voice of Ian McKellen as the demon is brilliant and terrifying as well as a hilariously fun addition. However, this addition draws a massive circle around the fact that a recorded voice proves more engaging than the live performances of the rest of the cast. This is not something that only the cast can be blamed for, when the writing is so centred around only two characters, there wasn’t a lot for many to work with, or there would be had they not been overshadowed by obnoxious strobing and thunder sounds.
The flaws of The Exorcist are evident and eye-roll-worthy, however it’s how the production wears those flaws on its sleeve, and embraces the same brilliant ridiculousness and vulgarity that the film presented. It can’t be denied that this adaptation is a fun night out for those not faint of heart.