When the somewhat self assured and celebrated author, Paul Sheldon (John Maurice), runs off the road in the depths of a Colorado winter, his saviour is Annie Wilkes (Joanne Hartstone), an embittered spinster who happens also to be his ‘number one fan’.
From there a horrendous nightmare for Sheldon settles in as the deranged Annie insists Paul brings back to life his most famous character, Misery, in a new novel.
Based on the Stephen King novel and adapted for the stage by Simon Moore, this is an agonising two hours as a man trapped by his injuries and the weather struggles the physical and mental anguish forced upon him by a bi-polar lunatic.
To be sure, with just two actors involved, Misery requires highly talented performers on the tops of their game or else this play would quickly become horrible. In both Hartstone and Maurice, the Bakehouse Theatre Company have found their players. Hartstone’s dress, accent, plod and child like memories quickly capture the essence of someone removed from the mainstream. Her ability to switch moods almost at will is powerful and off putting – you never know what is coming next.
Being constrained to a bed throughout only adds to the skills the Sheldon player requires and John Maurice’s performance is faultless, his gradual shift from semi-comatosed disbeliever to alert schemer is entirely believable, his passion for writing and displays of the most acute pain attract our sympathies notwithstanding the arrogant persona with which we are greeted.
Full credit also to Michael Allen’s direction and Tammy Boden’s set and costume design and most particularly for the most believable amputation effects.
Very likely to be independent theatre’s highlight of the year, so go see during this Misery’s last week.