TITLE: Huddersfield Thespians, Misery.
VENUE: Syngenta Cellar, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
BY: William Marshall
THIS two-hander, adapted from a Stephen King story and the 1990, Oscar-winning film version, scripted by Simon Moore, takes place over the course of several months in a single room.
A famous author, having been in retreat to write his latest novel, crashes his vehicle and is rescued by a female loner, who confines him to a bed in her remote Colorado farmhouse.
It turns out that she is an obsessive fan of a series of trashy novels of his, featuring a romantic heroine named Misery.
Behaving with increasing sadism towards the author, she insists that he revive the character, so he begins to write under extreme pressure, knowing that when he types “The End”... well, the phrase might have added existential significance.
Julie Amos plays Annie and Steve Marsden is Paul, and they were word-perfect in what is a long and, by its static nature, dialogue and monologue-heavy play.
There was some American accent-slippage, but very little, and these two experienced actors turn in highly creditable performances.
Paul, the author, is in a terrible predicament. But because Steve Marsden skilfully brings out his arrogance and conceit as well as his vulnerability, we retain a touch of ambivalence about his fate. The play is more of a psychological exploration of the two characters than an all-out cliff-hanger, so the actors have plenty to get their teeth into.
Julie Amos is able to turn on an emotional sixpence with the unhinged Annie – one instant affectionate and compassionate; the next, cruel and frightening. The emergence of the truth about her background is the main propellant of the plot.
The story acts as a kind of metaphor for the authorial process; the pain of creative writing and the pressure of expectation piled on successful authors. To be at the mercy of an obsessive but discontented fan must be a common nightmare among writers, musicians, actors and other creative people.
The “Misery” novel that Paul writes under pressure but with increasing commitment and pride is a load of tosh, and the passages he reads aloud provides humorous relief and a chance for Steve Marsden to display an amusing range of deliberately-bad accents.
This is a lengthy but absorbing play, directed by Lawrence Barker and ideal for the intense claustrophobia of the Syngenta Cellar at the LBT. It runs until, Saturday, when there is also a matinee.