Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Carrie - Southwark Playhouse

WHEN director Gary Lloyd was 12 he read Stephen King’s iconic novel Carrie. Now years later he is to direct a new musical version of the story. He tells Kate Gould all about it.

HORROR fans are in for a treat this month with a new musical version of Carrie, Stephen King’s blood infused story of the 17-year-old misfit Carrie White.
It is based on the book, which was published in 1974 and which spawned several adaptations including the 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie and John Travolta as Billy.
In April 1988 a musical version opened on Broadway but closed weeks later after scathing reviews. But in 2012 its score and book were revised by original composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and librettist Lawrence D Cohen.
The result is a newly reworked and fully re-imagined version which opens at the Southwark Playhouse tomorrow night.
It will be directed by self confessed horror fan Gary Lloyd and in a break from last minute rehearsals including some finishing touches to the essential special effects, he tells me he can’t wait to bring it to the stage.
I read the book when I was 12 and loved it," he says. "I'm a big horror fan and a huge Stephen King fan so it’s always been something I have been drawn to.
Carrie as a musical has had a bit of a chequered history. But this version has had a lot of work done to it and it’s amazing – the music is beautiful and the story is very strong – everything about it made me want to do it.
I’ve been sitting on this project for two years trying to work out what we do with it. It’s a cursed piece in many ways but I wanted to do it and do it right because I believed in it so much.
Luckily the Southwark Playhouse was as keen as I was – it’s a theatre with a reputation for taking risks and being bold. Really strong work is being done here and it became the obvious choice as a place to stage it and I’m so glad it’s finally here.”
For those who’ve not read the book it revolves around Carrie, a girl bullied at school by her peers and at home by her fanatical mother. However when a prank at her high school prom goes horribly wrong she wields her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on all those who have wronged her.
It’s essentially about bullying and the extent to which it can harm an individual,” says Gary. “Carrie is not only bullied by the kids at school, she is also abused by her mother so she gets it on both sides.
"Sadly these things do happen and the story explores it in great depth.
However, my mission was not to make it melodramatic but to make it real.”
That said he acknowledges it is a dramatic story, not least because of Carrie’s telekinetic powers and the amount of blood involved.
Indeed it is the special effects required to tell the story that have kept Gary on his toes in the last few weeks.
The book has been our go to point of reference and we have been very respectful of it and the story,” he says.
However, the script requires a certain amount of special effects. There is a lot of blood in the story – from the blood of Carrie’s first period that unleashes her powers to the bucket of blood that soaks her at the school prom.
There is a lot to get our teeth into but I was really keen to tell the story of these people rather than it be all about the effects.
Luckily I’ve got an incredible cast – they are really super intelligent actors who have been with me from the start and totally get it and play the characters subtly."
And he says the intimate nature of the Southwark Playhouse adds to the atmosphere making it the "perfect setting" to stage the show.
It makes for a very immersive experience," he says. It’s not just a case of sitting and watching what happens in the playing space in the centre of the room.
"We use the aisles and exits and within the audience is surround sound – including from under the seats - we've created a real experience!"
But Gary says it will be the themes and characters within the piece that he hopes will resonate most with audiences.
People relate to Carrie as a character,” he says. “She’s an outcast, a person who doesn’t fit in, someone who is called names and mocked and that’s a side of the story that people will identify with.
Then there is the element of revenge – and I think people love the fact there is a character who gets their own back on those kids.
But each of the kids who try and make things better for Carrie or create the terrible prank on have issues of their own and it's been interesting to explore that too.
It’s also set in the present day so there are lots of comments towards social media which adds to the gravity of the bullying.
Nowadays you can film someone being taunted, post it on social media networks and thousands of people see it, it’s dreadful.
Kids are cruel from a very early age and it’s parents and teachers that have to teach them and show them how to see things from someone else’s eyes.
"It's been so exciting to bring this story to the stage. It's harrowing and poignant - and a bit scary - and the audience will see that, but ultimately I think the message that comes through most strongly is what does it cost to be kind.”

Carrie is on at the Southwark Playhouse until Saturday, May 30. Tickets cost £22. Visit or call the box office on 020 7407 0234. 

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