The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
February 13, 14, 15 & 16, 2002.
by Stephen King adapted by Simon Moore
Katie Brownings – Annie Wilkes
Bob Ryder – Paul Sheldon
Kate Hills – Jane Harper [recorded ‘newsroom’ footage]
Stage Manager – Marc Lewis
Lighting Design – Mike Medway
Lighting Technician – Chris Grey
Sound – Simon Snelling
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
ASM – John Garland
Photography – Lucien Bouchy
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Publicity – Judith Berrill
Workshop Team – Brian Box
Workshop Team – David Collis
Workshop Team – David Comber
Workshop Team – Mike Davy
Workshop Team – Marc Lewis
Front of House – Valerie Bray
Box Office – Margaret Murrell
Programme Note #1: Misery
PT wrote: “Well, Stephen King makes his debut at the Barn! This play is a wonderful example of the way that Wick Theatre Company champions diversity in its productions. This gripping tale has all the ingredients of what you might expect from this author – suspense, atmosphere, shock, fast changing mood swings and so on. it is a play that fires the imagination in all respects and it will certainly keep you wondering just what happens next. I hope you will feel this production does full justice to a story by one of the masters of the horror genre .. and I hope you enjoy it! ”
Publicity #1: Misery
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: January 31 2002 issue – Leisure Scene Section – page 8
Correspondent: Michelle Nevell
Text Header: “A bedtime horror story from Wick”
THERE’LL be thrills and chills a plenty at the Barn Theatre next month when Wick Theatre Company performs Misery by Stephen King. Adapted for the stage by Simon Moore, it has also been made in to a successful film.
When romantic novelist Paul Sheldon crashes his car in the snow on a lonely road in Colorado, he is pulled from the wreckage and saved from certain death by Annie Wilkes, a strange character who turns out to be a nurse. She also turns out to be his greatest fan, fascinated by Misery, the heroine of all novels. Snowbound, isolated in her farmhouse and unable to walk, Paul is dependent on Annie for his every need. But some of her ministrations are anything but caring and professional. Is she hiding a dark secret?
Director Peter Thompson has chosen a top cast for this play. Bob Ryder, seen before in the title rôles of Macbeth and Son of Man, plays Paul. Katie Brownings, who appeared as Hannah Jarvis in Wick’s award-winning production of Arcadia, is Annie.
The play is being performed at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, from Wednesday, February, 13, to Saturday, February 16, at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £5 from the box office. Please telephone 01273 597094.
Review #1: Misery
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: February 21 2002 issue – Leisure Scene Section – page 6
Reviewer: Frank Horsley
Text Header: “Wick’s team apart’ make for Misery”
CUTTING edge is a much overused phrase, but Wick Theatre Company is where it’s at. You would think a drama group in their 54th year, serving, at first sight, a sleepy Sussex backwater, would have the decency to stick to the comfort zone. You know, safety-first pipe and slipper stuff like a nice little Agatha Christie or a common or garden bedroom farce. Not a bit of it.
Wick haven’t got where they are today by underestimating their audience’s willingness to be intellectually stretched – or shocked even. Thus we had, in a rightly acclaimed ‘exciting new development’, the company’s third studio production at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, last week. And what a roller-coaster ride it was – a no-holds-barred version of Misery, adapted from the Stephen King novel. Atmosphere arguably played the leading part in this tale of the literary fan from hell, Annie Wilkes, who imprisons her favourite writer, Paul Sheldon, in her home after rescuing him from a car crash.
Katie Brownings [Annie] and Bob Ryder [ Paul] excelled in two of the most demanding rôles you could ever dream of. Yet, as director Peter Thompson said in response to congratulations from members of the audience after opening night, it was a ‘team effort’. Two brilliant performances would have been lost to the ether if the expert set, special effects and mood music [including Tangerine Dream, with, for a change, no John Peel to introduce it!] hadn’t suggested the whole thing was taking place in a hermetically sealed chamber. The claustrophobic tension was often unbearable, particularly when Paul clawed his way out of his wheelchair to steal painkillers and try to phone the outside world, and then when Annie ‘hobbled’ him with an axe.
Yes, people laughed in places, but in the right places, and not at any maladroitness on the part of the performers. A certain leavening of humour is essential in confronting such extremes of human suffering and monstrosity. The not easily shocked side of me thought Bob Ryder could have uttered his profanities with more venom and screamed even more blood-curdingly in the face of some of the tortures he was pit through – but that is a minor observation.
Also appearing was Kate Hills as newsreader Jane Harper in an effective big-screen video link at the back of the set. The gauze screen doubled up, with clever lighting effects, to add an extra dimension to the action. A miserable time was had by all…
Review #2: Misery
Publication: Words & Music
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Gordon Bull
A thriller, a chiller! This dark, effectively two-handed drama inexorably builds up the tension so that by the interval the whole audience is in thrall, continuing thereafter to what can only be described as an earth-quaking, terrifying climax.
Katie Brownings as the demon nurse Annie and Bob Ryder as the fated author Paul made an outstanding success. Brownings’ realistic acting as the demented fan of Paul’s chief serial character, Misery, was a tour de force, as she slowly ground down his will and made him resurrect Misery from death in a final issue. With Paul cut off from the outside world, both his legs broken, his secretive rescuer uses the situation to work her awful will, blackmailing him by withholding painkillers and drugs.
As capable tele-newsreader, Kate Hills kept us up to date with the long months’ search. The dreadful conclusion cannot be revealed!
A strong chilling play, directed by Peter Thompson, performed so excellently here in the round with a very special mention for the clever selection of atmospheric and sinister music.
Review #3: Misery
Publication: Wick Newsletter
Publication Data: March 2002
Reviewer: Margaret Pierce
I was looking forward to seeing the production of Misery. Never having seen the film or read the book, I was ready to take it on face value and did not have to make any comparisons. I thought it was a remarkable performance, extremely difficult and challenging. I liked the setting of the studio production – using the stage as part of the house gave a sense of realism and depth to the play. The set was suitable drab and desolate.
When Paul Sheldon’s car crashes in a snowstorm, leaving him with multiple injuries, he is entirely at the mercy of his rescuer, an unpredictable former nurse whose bedside manner has little resemblance to Florence Nightingale. The opening scene with the video footage was excellent – in fact all the videos were superb – well done, Metro Broadcast and Steyning Grammar School. The Newsreader [Kate Hills] was very realistic and I felt that I was really watching the world news. I loved the music, which had an eeriness to send a shiver up any spine.
Bob Ryder played the romantic novelist whose vulnerability had us wondering how he would overcome being stuck in this isolation. Bob was superbly cast, having the perfect quality of being both naive at the beginning and ruthless for survival at the end. When Katie appeared as Annie Wilkes with her hypnotic stare, I knew we were in for a treat. At first I thought the accent might grate on me, but it was so apt – the southern drawl conjuring up a lonely, wildly cuckoo woman living in this isolated house, whose psychotic demand was for all to see. Katie sustained the accent throughout the play, and I actually grew to like it. Katie, please play a lovely feminine part in your next play, I would hate to see you typecast!
Annie proves to be Paul Sheldon’s ‘number one fan’, and keeps him locked in the house like an animal, sometimes behaving like one herself. She forces him to resurrect his character Misery in new book. Paul’s reading of chapters to Annie brings a welcome touch of humour to the play, causing a few nervous ripples of laughter. We went through the highs and lows of the two characters and they kept up the momentum to the end. I believe that any actor or actress of lesser ability would have made this seem, perhaps, a second-rate production.
The lighting and sound were excellent and created exactly the right atmosphere. I thought the scene with the spotlight zooming in on the white cold clammy face of Sheldon, who looked as if he was awaiting execution, was superb. But I would have liked to see the axe coming down as the lights dimmed – and foot amputated with an enormous scrunching noise. I also thought the barbeque was a little more ‘Florida BBQ time’ than deep-rooted southern US trash, but I am really only nit-picking now.
My only criticism was lack of audience on the Wednesday night I went to see the performance. The number of people I heard were not going because they did not like ‘that sort of play” They missed seeing some marvellous performances. Has anyone heard of loyalty and support to the actors, the director and Wick? I too was feeling a little apprehensive, knowing it was a Stephen King story, but it kept me enthralled to the end. What ever did happen to Annie? How did Paul get out?! We drew our own conclusions.
When I spoke to Peter Thompson, the director, at the end of the performance, he told me it was a team effort – but Peter, you had the initiative to take on the play with these two fine actors. Well done! The stage phrase ‘break a leg’ will never have the same connotation again.
Comment #1: Misery
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: February 21 issue – page 7
Letter from: Mrs J Grant Shoreham
“Who needs the West End?” – ‘A word of advice to play-goers. There is no need to spend a small fortune on London theatres when you can see superb acting as in Wick Theatre Company’s performance of Misery last week. The two characters sustained the chilling atmosphere throughout in a difficult piece of theatre, but which had the audience enthralled. I look forward eagerly to their next production.’