Previewed 20 October 2017, Opened 31 October 2017, Closes 10 March 2018 at the Phoenix Theatre
A major production of John Pielmeier's stage adapation of William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist in London starring Jenny Seagrove, Peter Bowles and Adam Garcia
When the medical profession fails to provide answers to young Regan's strange symptoms, her desperate mother Chris turns to a local priest for help. But before Father Damien can tackle what's before him, he must overcome his own shaken beliefs, as this fight is for more than just one girl's soul...
William Peter Blatty's best-selling novel - based on true events - is perhaps best-known for the 1973 movie adaptation which won two Oscars. This stage production comes to London's West End following a successful season at the Birmingham Rep Theatre in 2016.
PLEASE NOTE: Recommended age guidance is 18 and over. This production contains material which may shock and offend.
The cast features Jenny Seagrove as 'Chris MacNeil', Peter Bowles as 'Father Merrin' and Adam Garcia as 'Father Damien' with Todd Boyce as 'Doctor Strong', Mitchell Mullen as 'Doctor Klein', Tristram Wymark as 'Burke' and Clare Louise Connolly as 'Regan' - who all reprise their roles from the Birmingham season. The cast in London also includes Isla Lindsay as 'Sharon' and Elliot Harper as 'Father Joe'. The voice of the 'Demon' is provided by Sir Ian McKellen (please note the voice of the 'Demon' is recorded, and therefore Ian McKellen will NOT be appearing 'in person'). Directed by Sean Mathias with designs by Anna Fleischle, video by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington, lighting by Philip Gladwell, sound by Adam Cork and illusions by Ben Hart. This production was originally staged at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in November 2016.
When this production here at the Phoenix Theatre in October 2017, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard hailed "Sean Mathias's suspenseful production... The result is an entertaining 100 minutes, the theatrical equivalent of a haunted fairground ride - not profoundly disturbing, but attractive to theatregoers who like nothing more than to squirm and scream." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper noted that "this show is less scary than the film but more disturbing. It offers the pleasure of experiencing a story that you love to dread told in another medium that traps the audience in the same space as the characters." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph described it as being a "fitfully shocking, knowingly creaky and yet on balance welcome theatrical fright-night... What we get further - despite the best efforts of the clunking dialogue to thwart it - is a gathering sense of dramatic engagement over 90 minutes." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said that "those who had been anticipating a train wreck or a so-bad-it's-good version will be disappointed, but so will those wanting to be scared out of their little cotton socks... The cast play fairly consistent second fiddle to visual effects, most of which are simple projections but which can be disproportionately effective... It all does a perfectly good job of telling the story, though not of giving you the screaming heebie-jeebies." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote: "Shock horror? Try schlock instead... Sean Mathias directs a strong cast, who often look a bit lost as the action switches, jerkily, between themes.... but on the whole it feels like a Hallowe'en whodunnit with a bit of Catholic hocus pocus thrown in. .. but this can't decide if it's a parody or the real deal. It may be fun - but that's not really enough." Neil Norman in the Daily Express explained that "the good news is that the play of The Exorcist is not the ordeal I had imagined it might be. The bad news is that the play of The Exorcist is not the ordeal I had imagined it might be... Director Sean Mathias is so intent on keeping the action moving, there is no time to get to know the characters. Peter Bowles does his best as exorcist-in-chief Father Merrin but he hardly registers. And when confronted with her daughter's condition, Jenny Seagrove responds as if Regan is suffering from a touch of flu... The Exorcist poses no threat to The Woman In Black which remains the scariest play in town. But it more or less delivers." Bill Hagerty in The Sun highlighted that how "nervous gulps and giggles replace screams as the stage version proceeds at a clip yet rarely hits the high spots... There are pluses. Jenny Seagrove is superb as Regan's mother and Ian McKellen's voicing of the devil full of demonic evil." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian thought that "Ian McKellen voices Satan, and he is the classiest thing in a show that is less head-turningly scary than mind-numbingly dull and about as spooky as a wet sock... Sean Mathias's staging recreates some of the movie's famous moments - including Regan's levitation - but becomes less and less terrifying with every blackout, special effect and projection it deploys." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that "Sir Ian lends his fruity cackle to a storming version of The Exorcist which opened this week - perfect for this season of Hallowe'en and All Souls... Is old Peter Bowles too suave for a priest? Almost. But he hits a tone between melodrama and the eerie which suits this 100-minute horror job. Camp has never been creepier... It scared the bejasus out of me."
Jenny Seagrove has performed extensively on the West End stage including the role of 'Fiona Foster' in Alan Strachan's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's How The Other Half Loves at the Haymarket Theatre Royal and transfer to the Duke of York's Theatre in 2016; the role of 'Georgie Elgin' in Rufus Norris' revival of Clifford Odets' The Country Girl at the Apollo Theatre in 2010; the role of 'Delia' in Sir Peter Hall's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2010; the role of 'Leslie Crosbie' in Alan Strachan's revival of William Somerset Maugham's The Letter at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2007; the role of 'Hannah' in Anthony Page's revival of Tennessee Williams's The Night Of The Iguana at the Lyric Theatre in 2005; the role of 'Isobel' in Guy Retallack's revival of David Hare's Secret Rapture at the Lyric Theatre in 2003; the role of 'Constance Middleton' in Edward Hall's revival of William Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife at the Apollo Theatre and transfer to Lyric Theatre in 2002; the role of 'Olive Madison' in Elijah Moshinsky's production of Neil Simon's The Female Odd Couple at the Apollo Theatre in 2001; the role of 'Laura' in Roger Redfarn stage production of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter at the Lyric Theatre in 2000; the role of 'Julia' in Auriol Smith's production of Richard Harris' Dead Guilty at the Apollo Theatre in 1995; and the role of 'Annie Sullivan' in Richard Olivier's revival of William Gibson's The Miracle Worker at the Comedy Theatre (was Harold Pinter Theatre) and transfer to Wyndham's Theatre 1994.
Peter Bowles' London theatre credits include the role of 'Sir Anthony Absolute' in Peter Hall's revival of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals at the Haymarket Theatre in 2010; the role of 'David Bliss' in Peter Hall's revival of Noel Coward's Hay Fever at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in 2006; the role of 'Joseph Duveen' in Harold Pinter's production of Simon Gray's Old Masters at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre) in 2004; the role of 'Roat' in Joe Harmston's revival of Frederick Knott's Wait Until Dark at the Garrick Theatre in 2003; the role of 'Andrew Wyke' in Elijah Moshinsky's revival of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth at the Apollo Theatre in 2002; the role of 'Beau Brummell' in Caroline Hunt's production of Ron Hutchinson's The Beau at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in 2001; the role of 'Gary Essendine' in Richard Olivier's revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter at the Aldwych Theatre and transfer to the Wyndham's Theatre in 1996; and the roles of 'Mr Malcolm' and 'Major Pollock' in Peter Hall's revival of Terence Rattigan's double-bill Separate Tables at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in 1993.
Adam Garcia's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Bill Calhoun / Lucentio' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate at the Old Vic Theatre in 2012; Dein Perry's tap dance show Tap Dogs at the Novello Theatre in 2010; the role of 'Fiyero' in the original cast of Joe Mantello's production of Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in 2006; the role of 'Chip' in Jude Kelly's revival of Leonard Bernstein's On The Town at the London Coliseum in 2005; and the role of 'Tony Manero' in the original cast of Arlene Philips' stage production of the Bee Gee's Saturday Night Fever at the London Palladium in 1998.
"The Exorcist tells the schlocky but disturbing story of a 12-yearold American girl called Regan who is the victim of demonic possession... One thing, and one thing only, comes out of this well: Clare Louise Connolly is good as Regan. The adult actress brilliantly captures the light-footed eagerness of the young girl, and when she lip-synchs to the guttural snarling of the demons inside her, she is astonishingly convincing. But for everyone else involved here, this is just one big embarrassment. John Pielmeier's adaptation is leaden and unimaginative. Peter Bowles as Father Merrin, Jenny Seagrove as Chris, Adam Garcia as Karras - all perfectly forgettable. Worst of all, the demon is voiced by Ian McKellen, a purringly obscene English gentleman with a perfect command of Latin, bent on corrupting all these innocent and baffled young Americans. Such a career low at his age seems especially unfortunate. You won't be afraid, though you might be faintly nauseated. The director, Sean Mathias, doesn't seem to have a clue what he's doing, and the heavy reliance on Very Loud Noises and Very Bright Lights to keep us on the edge of our seats suggests some desperation." The Sunday Times
"With its wobbly sets, The Exorcist feels doomed long before you hear the voice of Ian McKellen as the Devil... The exorcism itself is, if anything, played down by director Sean Mathias. Instead of the film's flying, pea-soup vomit, the girl sprays consommé politely to the side of the bed. Her head does rotate - nice work from illusionist Ben Hart - and there's a self-harming scene that got a shriek of 'Ohmigod!' from the stalls... Despite the self-slamming doors and the flying drawers, The Woman In Black is far more frightening. Tristram Wymark - as the doomed family friend - tries vainly to find the laughs in John Pielmeier's leaden script and Jenny Seagrove is teethachingly mumsy as Regan's parent... We are, mercifully, spared the film's lingering ability to pollute your mind. With this tosh, once you're out of the frying pan and into the foyer you've already forgotten it." The Mail on Sunday
"'That thing upstairs isn't my daughter!' is just one of the famous lines from the iconic 1973 film. Fans will be pleased to hear it, along with other more X-rated ones, in this new take on the terrifying tale. But be warned - it's not for those of a nervous disposition. We are in the new home of movie star Chris and her angelic 12-year-old daughter Regan. But the moppet makes a new pal - a demon magnificently voiced by Sir Ian McKellen, who savours every second as he goes from purring ingratiation to satanic savagery. Regan's descent into possession - leading Chris to call the James Bond of exorcist - includes the movie's projectile vomiting, shocking obscenity and head-swivelling. It makes for a camp but skilfully staged show which serves up gruesome with devilish relish." The Sunday Mirror
The Exorcist in London at the Phoenix Theatre previewed from 20 October 2017, opened on 31 October 2017 and closed on 10 March 2018.