MISERY
Criterion Theatre, London W1
Opened 17 December, 1992

If Misery is one of your favourite films, you'd be best advised to pass by on the other side. Likewise if you're merely curious about the power of the story, in which romantic novelist Paul Sheldon is imprisoned after a road accident by his "number one fan", the unhinged Annie Wilkes, who destroys his serious novel and tortures him into resurrecting his dead pulp heroine. Although more faithful to King's original than was William Goldman's screenplay, Simon Moore is handicapped by the nature of theatre: lacking a variety of camera angles, he has to put it all upfront, and bereft of point-of-view shots to follow Sheldon's gradual discovery that Annie's belt hasn't gone through all the loops for some time now, he has to give Sharon Gless an awkward confession outburst.

Bill Paterson is perceptively cast: he has the gift of commandeering the moral centre in whatever play he appears in. Gless works gamely at Annie, but has little to bite on instead of the film's mercurial rages, the character here is consistently, sadistically wicked, coming over more like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?  The few moments of real mental disturbance in the part as written show what she could do given the chance. The terror-by-numbers is crassly underlined by brazenly filmic incidental music, and the climax completely fumbled. It may be the best major stage version of Stephen King to date, but the only other contender is the calamitous Carrie. The video's cheaper.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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