A British theatre company is promising Dubai audiences plenty of "jumps" and "surprises" during a tense and gripping tale of obsession, entrapment and inner demons.
The stage adaptation of one of Stephen King's most memorable psychological thrillers, Misery, will be brought to the First Group Theatre at Madinat Jumeirah from February 1 to 11 for 16 performances by the London-based theatre company Popular Productions.
The American writer is known for his scary fantasy and science-fiction novels in which clowns are never good, pets are seemingly possessed, husbands a little unstable and women a tad unpredictable. And the latter is true of his female lead Annie Wilkes, Misery's main character.
The story follows Wilkes, a psychologically unstable woman who rescues famous novelist Paul Sheldon from a near fatal car crash after having just finished his latest book. An increasing sense of danger begins to settle in as his "number one fan" takes him home and he realises nobody knows he is there. Brought to life in the 1990 film starring Kathy Bates and James Caan (Bates won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal), this stage adaptation by Simon Moore features Wilkes played by the British actress Yvonne O'Grady, while the British actor Darren Day takes the role of Sheldon.
Taking a break during a rehearsal in London recently, the director John Payton said the Dubai production would be an intimate show that delves deep into the concept of celebrity obsession. The show was first produced by the company in 2006 for the London stage.
"Thrillers are popular and Stephen King is a master of such genres," said Payton. "He's great at creating characters far removed from reality but realistic at the same time. It's a clever adaptation that stays true to the book with an exciting back-and-forth between the main characters and sudden twists. Here's a guy trapped by his 'number one fan', and we explore reasons why."
Popular Productions also have an office in Dubai and are no strangers to taking local audiences out of their comfort zone. In 2009, they brought the critically acclaimed adaptation of The Woman in Black to Dubai, now a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and due to be released in cinemas this year.
"We always aim to bring something different. It's not often you see talent like Yvonne and Darren together," said Payton. "Moore didn't want to deviate from the book, so it's a slow-burning example of how someone can do something so bad. It's pretty macabre and there's a real sense of tension because it's theatre."
The set is "big and dark", mainly consisting of the house.
"It's slightly surreal. It's a story of imprisonment, so the audience will experience claustrophobia mixed with black humour. The music will also make you jump," said Payton.
There are no local performers on the 10-member cast and crew. With Day being a familiar face to British television (The Bill, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here) and the West End (Grease, We Will Rock You), he immediately stood out.
"I'm extremely excited and because it's pretty intense, it's even exhausting in rehearsals. The movie was fantastic, but there's no question the book is darker with lots of layers," said Day. "It's scary because obsession is very real."
Day himself had his fair share of being scrutinised by the British tabloids. He also once took an injunction out on an individual for stalking.
"Sometimes my personal life would be spread out across the front pages," said Day. "I've had stalkers and what's unnerving is, sometimes, I even received letters from fans who address me by my character's name expressing anger over what he did, so I took some of that and channelled it into my performance of Sheldon."
O'Grady, who starred in popular TV series such as Coronation Street and The Bill, agreed that the intensity is "amazing" which is emboldened, she added, through their onstage chemistry.
"Wilkes is psychologically disturbed. What's interesting is the audience gets a glimpse of her past for an idea as to why she goes through these moods," said O'Grady. "She is isolated, lonely and judgemental and we see a string of events in her life that she may have been involved with."
The fact that humans are capable of such acts towards each other makes it even more chilling, she said.
"Anyone who has seen the film will still be surprised," said O'Grady. "When playing the character, one becomes the cause not the act. It's set in a dark house - a dungeon of terror, if you like - where Wilkes has a fantasy they will live happily ever after, but he's fighting to get out, so she tries to physically and psychologically destroy him."
- The first performance begins at 8pm on February 1, and tickets are Dh140 each. All other evening shows are Dh160. For matinées (2pm) tickets are Dh140 each. For more information, visit www.madinattheatre.com or www.popularproductions.com
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