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The Exorcist property has seen a fair bit of activity over the last few years with its recent inclusion at Halloween Horror Nights 26 and the better than expected TV show now in its second year. We won’t spoil it here but the series is worth a watch – both seasons have a brilliant mid-season twist and are bizarrely respectful of the source material.
The stage production of the original tale has surfaced before (in Birmingham) but is now on London’s West End so, naturally, we had to check it out!
The plot itself probably needs no introduction but in case you’re completely new to the franchise, The Exorcist centers around the demonic possession of a twelve-year-old girl, Regan MacNeil, and the subsequent exorcism that takes place.
As far as this particular staging goes, it felt slightly unnecessary. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table and the horror elements seem chucked in as though they were contractually obligated to include scenes such as the supernatural vomiting and head-spinning to name but two. Everything all happened so matter-of-factly that we wonder if maybe the play would have been better served by not slavishly recreating famous scenes if they didn’t fit with the tone that it was shooting for. We had the sense that they were trying to soften the contentious scenes where they could without alienating a whole contingent of people who will undoubtedly attend the play because of what it is.
And on that note, we’re not sure that The Exorcist is material suited to the West End. There were very awkward jokes peppered throughout the runtime as though the prospect of delivering an uncompromising, visceral experience was out of the question for a typical Leicester Square audience. This odd direction seeped into some of the performances, with a couple of characters and moments coming across as larger than life. And we reckon they should’ve dropped the US accents. Yes, the book and movie are set in the US but there’s nothing about this story that necessitates an American location. It was just another element that lent the play a very ‘stagey’ air. Then there’s the casting of Ian McKellen as the voice of The Demon. Again, this smacked of pandering in the hope of attracting a wider audience and whilst his performance wasn’t exactly terrible, he just didn’t suit the part at all. There was zero menace to this character; think Harry Potter villain and you’re a good way towards imagining how this antagonist came across.
Effects-wise, they were pretty weak and nowhere near the quality of those in the recent Horror. Now, we appreciate that they’re very different shows and The Exorcist shouldn’t be viewed with the expectation of a special effects showcase. That said, what was there was just perfunctory. A good example of this was how the head-turning moment was hilariously forecast when the actress suddenly appeared in a very obvious and ridiculous wig. Coming from such a widely known and regarded series, these moments should have been carried out with a bit more care.
And whilst it may look like we’re completely slating the production, we still somewhat enjoyed ourselves. It’s a faithful recreation of the story so you’ll have a good time with it if you like the source material. And you likely will if you don’t – it’s a decent story about sacrifice and loss and this isn’t lost on the stage. However, its existence as a play is mostly redundant.
Suffice to say, if you’re thinking of attending for a scary night out – this definitely isn’t that. Yes, there are a few jumps here and there but most of the horror from the original text is pared back to offer a safer experience.
It’s the Exorcist but live!
Limp adaptation where the horror elements were concerned.
Tonally, it felt a bit ‘off’
Having been scared silly by this when I was young, I couldn’t resist the chance to go to a theatre performance of The Exorcist. However, I was bitterly disappointed with this production. I could barely hear the dialogue and this kinda ruined it for me. You may say it was due to our seat choice but we paid for premium seats in the stalls. I also found that the story was lacking the ‘scare factor’ even though we specifically booked for ‘Fright Night’ Friday. Also the effects were not quite as epic as I was hoping and the iconic music from the film was not used until the end. I appreciated the acting of the younger cast but felt like something was missing from the show overall. Perhaps I expected too much but if you take on a film as iconic as this you should be able to deliver on it.
The Exorcist (2017)
We couldn't help but feel disappointed by this show. It has all the making's of a successful production but the execution is erratic and lacking considering the property at hand.
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