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Stephen King’s MISERY is taking to the stage 

By Sheroog Kubur, September 19 2022

If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s work to any extent — whether it be his novels, film or stage adaptations — anyone can agree that he has mastered not only writing horror, but bringing it to life. Vertigo Theatre is opening up their 2022/23 season by bringing his 1987 novel, MISERY, to the stage, which tells the story of a man who feels trapped in more than one way. 

“The story of a person trying to write to save their life — he’s trapped not only in a room but in his old life,” said director Jamie Dundson. 

The story follows Paul Sheldon, a romance novelist who had gained immense popularity thanks to the Misery series. After being saved from a car crash by his self-proclaimed number-one fan, Annie Wilkes, things take a turn for the worse when Wilkes begins to reveal her true intentions. In true King fashion, the story is dark and disturbing as the plot unfolds, until it crescendos into what Dundson calls a “$10,000 moment.”

“I think part of what makes Stephen King such a master of horror is that he understands the simple truth that nothing haunts us more than our pasts,” said Dundson.

The stage adaptation was written by William Goldsworth, who also wrote the screenplay of the film adaptation. As a result, the play takes on a more realistic approach than theatrical one, but that meant openings for Dundson to be more creative in other departments. 

“One of the things you can’t do on film is bring people into the clautrauphobia in the same way — when you’re in the same room as someone that’s going through torture, you feel that too,” said Dundson about the theatricality of the play. 

This adaptation bears it all out for the audience — there’s no hiding behind camera tricks or editing. The viewers are forced to experience what Sheldon goes through in real time alongside him. 

“We worked our hardest not to hide anything — we want to give our audience the truth of horror,” said Dundson about bringing the story to life. 

Another interesting feature of this play was the notoriety it had upon it’s first release — the play started on Broadway and then moved to smaller theatre companies. This meant that while the initial run had a seemingly unlimited budget to bring the story to life, following productions had to deliver on the same promises with a limited budget. While this was a challenge for Vertigo Theatre to overcome, they took it with grace. 

“Every moment of this play is seeing how can we do the best version of this possible within the constraints of normal budgeting,” Dundson said about adapting the play. “We didn’t really have to scale it down because the production team of Vertigo [Theatre] really took on the challenge — we really got the bang for our buck.”

For fans of horror and theatre, MISERY is a brilliant way to bring the two worlds together. The story doesn’t have a dull moment but it will leave you shivering with anticipation about what’s coming up next. It combines the expertise of King with the theatricality of Dundson’s directing work, all for a wild ride. MISERY opened on Sept. 15 and will run until Oct. 15 at the Vertigo Theatre. Tickets start at $30 and are available for sale now.

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