Carrie: The Musical at Southwark Playhouse
The original musical theatre adaptation of Carrie, based on Stephen King’s debut novel, was considered a flop in many respects when it was first staged. Other than the artistic deficiencies highlighted by the critics, this production was also beset by some natural misfortunes including a serious accident during a performance that nearly decapitated its star Barbara Cook. This all culminated in significant financial losses which forced the show to fold before it had barely begun. An attempted revival some twenty-five years later (in 2012) did not fare too well either and closed a couple of weeks early due to poor ticket sales, failing to recoup its significant investment. It is thus easy to see why most believe that despite two successful film adaptations of the same book, Carrie: The Musical has some kind of curse hanging over it.
Dispelling such beliefs once and for all and providing a proper tribute to this classic horror tale is the task faced by director Gary Lloyd – whose repertoire includes the West End’s Thriller Live! – as he brings to London what is dubbed “the updated” version of Carrie: The Musical.
The general implication is that changes have been made to make the production more contemporary, but it has to be said that there still aren’t many striking modernities at the outset. The first act sets up Carrie (played by Evelyn Hoskins) as the shy tormented high school loner who discovers her telekinetic powers. Bullying scenes consist of nothing more than some over-the-top politically improper playground name-calling, just like it would have happened in the 80s. There are no references to the current sophisticated avenues teenagers today use to inflict abuse.
Unlike previous versions of the show, the budget here appears to have been closely monitored; the set is perfunctory at best, and the costumes only offer some slight glimmer in the closing prom scene. The design of Southwark Playhouse offers a cosy, immersive atmosphere; the revised music is fitting and compliments the story well, but there’s nothing particularly infectious about the songs.
The single masterstroke in this new production of Carrie: The Musical is the casting of Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie. Yes, her very slight stature naturally helps in portraying a fragile, afflicted teenager, but Hoskins and Kim Criswell, who plays her mother, deliver breathtaking performances that turn the entire show sideways. Carrie’s storyline is already well-known thanks to the book and subsequent films, so audiences might be seeking something different from this show. However, the over-reliance on sound effects to provide horror does not work and it is in fact still the storyline that may keep audiences engaged, thanks to the two principal members of the cast. Hoskins plays Carrie with such subliminal vulnerability that viewers will hang on to every poignant word she says – or sings – and root for her all the way through to overcoming her bullies.
Photo: Alastair Muir
Carrie: The Musical is on at Southwark Playhouse from 1st to 30th May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.