Read Tony Winner Jack Thorne's New Introduction to KING KONG!
Performances are underway for King Kong, which officially opens Thursday, November 8 at the Broadway Theatre (1681 Broadway).
Based on the 1932 novel, the stage production of King Kong is a contemporary take on the classic tale of beauty and the beast. The story follows a young actress, Ann Darrow, and a maverick filmmaker, Carl Denham, as they voyage from the bustling streets of 1930s New York to an uncharted island to capture the world's greatest wonder. At the center of this 21st-century reimagining: a 20-foot high, 2,000-pound gorilla brought to life by a team of seamlessly integrated artists and technicians. King Kong is a larger-than-life encounter with a legend that's always been too big to contain.
Jack Thorne, the Tony Award-winning book writer of the new Broadway musical, has written the Introduction to a new edition of the Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper novella of King Kong, which has just been released to coincide with the opening of the Broadway musical. Read his full introduction below!
King Kong is, and always has been, king of the monster stories for me. I think what Wallace and Cooper did - and Lovelace novelised - was nothing short of extraordinary. When we looked into making into it in our musical, the thing we always came back to is this novella, the insight into his mind as to what they were trying to create. A monster who you got time with, a monster with feelings other than destruction, and a monster whose death is tragic. In a time when too much in our news cycle has become about the other extreme - the Jaws extreme - of not knowing your attacker, just fearing it - there's something very powerful about the Kong myth.
It's interesting that when writing it Wallace was constantly being fed by Cooper the story of monsters where there is a humanity to them. The original Dracula film and of course the magnificent Frankenstein. Kong fits into the tract beautifully. Our relationship with difference and how we deal with those who are seemingly more powerful than ourselves. You can then sketch the progress of this all the way up to Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
Wallace, the original writer, the man who broke the blank page, sadly died before his work was complete on the project so as a writer I feel duty bound to state that there are two others who aren't 'listed in the credits' of the book who should perhaps be. Ruth Rose and James Ashmore Creelman. One section which is of particular note that Ruth Rose added was the ritual sacrifice of Ann that Kong interrupts. In Wallace's original version it was the rape by a ship's crew member. This obviously makes a huge difference to Kong's legacy, in both cases he's saving Ann, but in one case it's from her own people and in the other it's his - for the islanders think they are bringing him a sacrifice.
Which brings me onto say, there are lots of legacies to what the writers did with this story. Some very destructive ones - with dangerous racial undertones to them. How much this is meant or otherwise of this is obviously unknown and I'll leave it for other cleverer people to discern - what I will say is this: Cooper lived a reckless life telling reckless stories and certainly, the similarities between him and Carl Denham are manifold, in that final plane sequence, Cooper famously is one of the pilots buzzing around Kong. That is part of the reason we've tried to examine Carl in a new way in this new production.
The character we've all fallen in love with in making the show is Ann Darrow. The beauty that killed the beast. There is a tendency within these pages to pigeon hole her as a damsel in distress or a screaming blonde. We have tried to make the play her journey and to make her responsible for her journey. She makes mistakes that leaves Kong vulnerable. In doing this, we hope we've humanised beauty in the same way that they humanised the beast all those years ago.
Jack Thorne, book writer, King Kong The Musical, July 2018
Courtesy of the 2018 Modern Library edition of King Kong
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