Review: MISERY at Dolphin Theatre, Auckland

Performances run through 7 October.

By: Sep. 23, 2023
Review: MISERY at Dolphin Theatre, Auckland

Imaginatively conceived and meticulously directed by Zane Fleming, MISERY is a quality production professionally executed so that the incredible tension and suspense are cleverly paced. It’s like a chess match with formidable characters setting out to defeat the other. With consistently superb performances from experienced actors, with imaginative set design, with precision staging and disconcerting lighting and sound employed with skill , this is a show well worth seeing.

Novelist Paul Sheldon (Nick Brown) wakes three days after a devastating car crash to find himself being nursed by Annie Wilkes (Kimberly Prosa), who claims to be his biggest fan. However, Annie is angry that Sheldon has killed off her favourite character Misery from his novels, and refuses to let him contact the outside world, or leave – until he shapes his writing to suit her twisted fantasies. He becomes her prisoner. “No one knows you’re here. You can suffer too. If I don’t get back, you die.”

The ingenious and imaginative set design (Nathan Hey, Zane Fleming)  captures the isolated homestead of Annie Wilkes in Silver Creek, Colorado . Constructed on a revolving stage, we come to appreciate its various spaces – the imprisoning bedroom, the cold but sparse parlour where the pain reducing drugs are kept, and the outside stoop with its firewood stacked ready for the winter months. Out the back, snow covered trees. The complaining “creak” as the revolving homestead rotates is sinister. It’s almost as if the whole house feels the same shattering pain that the popular romance novelist Paul Sheldon does.

Atmospheric lighting (Gareth Evans) and sound (Geoff Evans) capture the eerie predicament, the several months of lightning storms, the snow storms, the rain – and outline the psychological and emotional battle between powerful wills as it unfolds. Just as Shakespeare does in his writings, the climate reflects the wretched distress being suffered. Fleming clearly appreciates the atmospheric power of sound, music and lighting – and these aspects bond to form a grim and chilling cohesive composition.  

Although the play has only three characters, with two of them on stage virtually the entire play, the emotional and psychological world they inhabit is presented with detailed precision. Effectively portrayed, the characterisation is psychologically driven and superbly captured with focused and emotionally rich physicalisation. Plausible work from Scott Harding as Buster, the country Sheriff, who comes several times to the homestead in search of Sheldon.  Outstanding authentic credibility from Nick Brown who has us entirely convinced in his pain, his frustration, his schemes, his creative spirit, and his own attempts to thwart his captor. Even more outstanding considering Paul Sheldon is unable to move his broken legs and body, and Nick Brown largely conveys his range of emotions using only eyes, face and vocal elements.  Impressive makeup (Maryanne Rushton, Robyn Fleming) supports our belief that Paul Sheldon has injuries so severe he cannot walk.

Kimberly Prosa as Annie Wilkes (one of Stephen King’s few characters who isn’t paranormal) depicts with spectacular convincingly creepy psychological truth this bipolar, sadomasochistic schizoid starved of love. “My thinking is a little blurred” is somewhat of an ironic understatement. Her wide-ranging gamut of emotions – desire, servile care, anger, fanaticism, rage, crazy mood swings are all captured with superbly sketched veracity.

Excellent contribution from Alexander Holloway, stunt co-ordinator. (You will see what I mean – no spoilers here!)  Congratulations to the entire creative team, and to the various talented alternates who play the three roles on different nights: Rebekkah- Schoonbeek-Berridge as Annie, Romain Mereau as Buster, and Scott Harding as Paul Sheldon.  Even if you know this novel, and/or saw the film, this is a version you will be immersed in. This is truly a top quality and professional production not to be missed.


On 22 September – 7 October

Dolphin Theatre

12 Spring Street



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From This Author - Glenda Pearce

Glenda Pearce is a highly experienced public speaking specialist # dynamic speaking #bodyworks #body communication # effective communication .  She  facilitates the development of confident,... Glenda Pearce">(read more about this author)


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