It’s a work that’s polarised audiences in both book and film form, and now, almost fifty years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel first appeared, the stage version arrives in Glasgow on its first national tour. Is it a horror classic? Is it satanic porn? Is it even suitable for stage adaptation? What can be in no doubt is that many audience members will arrive in the auditorium with a certain set of expectations: will there be head-spinning? projectile vomiting? masturbating with a crucifix? Yes, yes and, err yes.
Inspired by a real 1949 case in Maryland, simply, it’s the story of the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, daughter of actress Chris, and the repeated attempts to cure what ails her, moving from the worlds of science to religion, ultimately ending in the titular exorcism.
While claiming to explore some bigger themes: faith and disbelief, doubt and courage, it is ultimately an opportunity to be scared witless in the name of entertainment, and the largely solid cast (save for the inevitable adult over-playing a twelve-year-old child in an already over-the top role) and Anna Fleischle’s dimly lit design, complimented by Adam Cork’s soundscape, all help to enhance the sense of creeping tension. It’s a little flabby, even at a short 100 minute running time, and it never matches the nerve-shredding tension of the movie version, but there are sufficient scares to get the blood pumping.
What it does achieve to its credit, is attracting a fresh set of theatre-goers, and provides a welcome relief from anodyne plays and a glut of perpetually touring musicals.
Runs until 21 September 2019 | Image: Contributed (previous production)
Carla Le Marchant has learnt a disturbing family secret: her mother, Caroline Crale, died in prison after being convicted for killing her father. Leaving an intriguing legacy in the form of a letter, Caroline professes her innocence and, believing this to be true; Carla becomes determined to clear her mother’s name. Enlisting the help of Justin Fogg; the son of her mother’s defence lawyer, Carla searches out all the players from her tragic history and brings them back to the scene of the crime to uncover the truth.
Go Back For Murder is based upon Agatha Christie’s novel of 1943, Five Little Pigs, the ‘five little pigs’ remain here but its hero Poirot is replaced by central character Carla (Sophie Ward) assuming the role of “detective”, and the action placed in 1968 and in flashback to the fateful day in 1948 when the murder takes place.
Carla returns from her life in Canada and as an empowered woman of the 60’s and endeavours to contact those present on the day of her father’s death, find the real murderer and exonerate her beloved mother. The first act visits each suspect in turn, where we hear their take on the events of that fateful day, and in true Christie fashion there are few clues, several red herrings and some misheard dialogue to baffle the amateur sleuths in the audience.
The cast almost entirely comprising familiar faces, skilfully weaves the complex tale for our entertainment. Ward carries the lions-share of the work in this piece and she does it with a graceful warmth and charm throughout, skilfully switching between daughter in 1968 and mother in 1948. She is ably supported by Liza Goddard, who raises the energy levels of the piece and some laughs with her keenly observed nanny Miss Williams, Antony Edridge who delivers a sensitively nuanced and convincing portrayal as true English gent Meredith Blake and Ben Nealon as her side-kick Justin Fogg. Familiar TV faces, Gary Mavers and Robert Duncan deliver well-judged performances as victim Amyas Crale and his best friend Philip respectively, however the same can’t be said for Lysette Anthony (Elsa) and Sammy Andrews (Angela Warren) who lean too much towards caricature in their portrayals.
The piece builds momentum throughout and delivers a tidy denouement. This is storytelling at its best, classy, engaging and above all entertaining from start to finish.