Review by Ellie Cansdale
Last night I got the chance to see Musical Theatre Society’s production of Carrie the Musical. I wasn’t sure what to think about a horror musical, but from the first beat to the last sentence, I was in no doubt of its ability to be an incredible piece of theatre.
After a bit of a squeeze to find a seat, as last night was a sell-out (congratulations!), I took my view of the stage, lit in an ominous red, a single table sat at the back between two ‘burnt’ stage flats. This was my first watch of a horror musical and my first watch of a musical in Pyramid. I was unsure as to how they’d utilise the in the round seating, but they used every inch to its full potential. Seated in thrust, the whole audience was able to see each other, the balconies, the stairs and the band in a beautiful white light at the back of the ‘stage’.
All photos taken by Tom Gibson.
Carrie follows the interrogation of Susan Snell, (played by Mia Ruby Crockart), a friend of Carrie White’s as she tells us the story of Prom Night and the events leading up to it. With a bright white spot, we were introduced to Snell and drawn into the story as the opening number “In” began. The ensemble swarmed the stage from all entrances, beautifully directed by Lydia Duval and Andie Curno. Every side of the audience was introduced to the ensemble of high school students dressed in a variety of sports gear and casual clothes. The power of their voices and acting in the intimate space honestly gave me goosebumps. The energy continued at high speed as the story unfolded.
At the end of the opening number, we were introduced to Carrie White, played by Freya Mactavish, or Scary White as the kids at the school called her. Wearing drab, old fashioned clothes, Carrie stuck out like a sore thumb. Mactavish’s physicality to embody the awkwardness and fear in Carrie was executed perfectly allowing her moments of power to feel even more impactful. White is relentlessly bullied by the girls and the boys in the show, most notably by Chris, played by Rowan Macpherson and her boyfriend Billy, played by Ronan Magee. The couple’s dynamic was well played by Macpherson and Magee, playing the epitome’s of high school bullies. Killian Lines’ portrayal of the infatuated good boy of the school, Tommy and Crockart’s innocently sweet Snell, brilliantly opposed these two, getting into constant disagreement about their treatment of Carrie.
As we followed the high school bullying, we were also witness to the bullying and abuse of Carrie’s mother, played by Cara Staniforth. From the moment Staniforth entered, you could tell she meant business, and by business I mean faith. Her devotion and harsh parenting were clear and caused a lot of empathy from the audience as we watched Carrie shy away from her in fear but crawl back for love.
The strength of the ensemble is important to note, as every number was harmonised beautifully, directed by Alex Boulton and assisted by Jennie Bodger. Their voices hit the mark and kept drawing us into the plot. Even when they weren’t ‘in’ the scene, we saw the ensemble on the balconies, or as other characters such as a church congregation, which further utlised the space and their talent. Moments when the focus was on the main characters, were not missed opportunities. Duval and Curno used these to create often hilarious moments and interactions between the characters. A most notable trope being George’s, played by Harry Toyé, crush on Tommy. Each solo was sung with incredible power and the portrayal of each of the characters built the world and added to the raw, intensity of the hatred and love displayed in the show.
Throughout the production, the lighting was beautifully executed and designed by Natalia Izquierdo. Carries moments of craze and power, were lit in a deep blood red, moments of madness or horror from other characters were also given this depth. White and yellow washes set neutral moments and white spots for solos and intense scenes. This, added with the physical contortionist-like movement of the tortured characters upped the anti and made me uncomfortable, in a good way.
Directed by Alex Boulton, the bands performance was phenomenal. I often took a moment to appreciate the music for a second watching the concentration of the musicians, and was blown away by the talent.
Overall, the entire production was a night “I’ll never forget”. An incredibly designed, directed and executed musical leaving everyone applauding until our hands were sore at the end of every number. The show has another full audience tonight, and I’m sure another standing ovation.