New Year shivers as The Exorcism hits the stage

The Exorcism - Director Susanne Crosby
The Exorcism - Director Susanne Crosby

Wick Theatre Company will kick off the New Year by sending shivers through its audiences.

Their first play of 2020 is The Exorcism by Don Taylor, directed by Susanne Crosby.

Susanne is promising a creepy thriller to chase the chills away at the Barn Theatre, Southwick.

The piece is perhaps best known as one of the stories in the BBC’s Dead of Night series in the 1970s. It started life as a play, and writer Don Taylor also directed the TV adaptation.

Dan and Margaret have come to spend Christmas with Rachel and Edmund in their renovated 17th-century cottage in beautiful countryside.

“This is a bright and cheery start, but as Rachel plays the piano, she suddenly gets a sinister feeling of déjà vu…

“Shortly afterwards the electricity fails and the phone is out of order… the start of a series of macabre events which mount relentlessly to a bizarre and terrifying climax.

“Don Taylor wrote this classic ghost story in 1972 when exorcism had more general meanings. This is about a centuries-old injustice exorcised by long silent spirits and the four unfortunate people who are drawn unwillingly in.”

Susanne said: “Because it was January, I didn’t want to do pantomime, and I do like a nice ghost story. I was wanting something to cheer the winter chills, and I love it when you get nicely scared, that kind of snuggled-up scared. Sometimes you can have enough of reality!

“It was a fellow member of the company who suggested this one to me, Guy Steddon, who is a complete horror nut. He said ‘I know you like a ghost story. Check this one out!’ He handed me a DVD and there were three episodes from the TV series, and I saw this one and just thought ‘Wow! This is what I want to do!’

“It was good, old-fashioned, armchair stuff and gorgeously scary. It was very gripping, but there was also quite a lot of it that was quite light-hearted and fun. But it slowly ramps. I am a real Hitchcock fan, and this one slowly ramps in the way that Hitchcock does. But it is not gory. It is just very, very creepy and scary!

“This spirit gets woken up in the house. You never see her but eventually you hear about her. It very, very slowly builds up. There are all these little things happening, like the lights going out. And then they want to leave, but they can’t. The doors won’t open.

“One of the four is a joker and tries to make light of everything, saying ‘We have got food and brandy. Let’s wait it out.’ One of them is very practical and thinks there must be a practical way out. Another one is a fixer and wants to fix it and take the hood off the fire so that they can get out that way…

“After seeing the play, I bought the script, and when I read the script, it gave me chills. I read it in the middle of the night. Everyone in the house was asleep. After I had read it, I had to put the lights on for half an hour before going to bed! It is so genuinely creepy.”

As for directing it: “For me, it is just written so well that I think the main thing is just to be really true to it. There are all these different things happening. It is not jumpy so much. You are not jumping all the time. It is just really unsettling, and that’s what we have really got to get across.”

Part of the appeal is also that it happens in real time. The interval will give the audience a chance to discuss what they think is happening, but by the time the second half starts, 20 minutes will have passed in the world of the play… and other things will have happened…

The production opens on Wednesday, January 8 and runs until Saturday, January 11. You are encouraged to buy tickets in advance from the Barn box office on 01273 597094 or online www.wicktheatre.co.uk.

Cast: Rachel – Anna Quick; Edmund – Sam Razavi; Margaret – Emily Dennett; and Dan – John Garland.

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