Stephen King's MISERY

The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

04/08/2018 - 25/08/2018

Production Details


Screams will be echoing in The Court Theatre when its first show of the Meridian Energy 2018/2019 season, Stephen King’s Misery, opens this August. 

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Stephen King, Misery is a thrilling story of obsession. Penned by playwright William Goldman (who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar winning film of the same name), Misery follows the tense story of writer Paul Sheldon as he struggles to break free of his captor – and biggest fan – Annie Wilkes. 

Paul finds himself in Annie’s care after waking up from a car crash somewhere in rural Colorado. Annie is, supposedly, Paul’s saviour, having pulled him from the wreckage and into her home. But if that’s the truth… then why is his bedroom door locked? 

Annie has been patiently awaiting Paul’s latest book in his popular Misery series but, upon reading the novel, flies into a frightening rage. Violently, she orders Paul to write a sequel where she gets to dictate the storyline. 

Trapped with his new typewriter and his self-confessed biggest fan breathing down his neck, Paul does as she asks… All while plotting his escape. 

For director Dan Bain, who is also the Associate Director at The Court, the story is a classic psychological thriller that he can’t wait to bring to The Court’s mainstage.  

“If you’ve got an idea of what plays The Court does, this is the play that breaks those assumptions. Thrillers used to be a really big mainstay of people’s theatre experience, but not so much anymore. It’s a genre that is really easy to make a value judgement on by saying, ‘that’s not for me,’ or, ‘I certainly wouldn’t enjoy that,’ but there are things to enjoy in Misery that people will be surprised by.” 

The woman delving into the madness of Annie Wilkes is actor and director Lara Macgregor.  

For Macgregor the play is exciting because, “so rarely does the opportunity present itself to view a psychological horror of this calibre on stage. It cleverly perches you on the edge of your seat while paying homage to the redemptive power of writing.”

Joining her is two-time Chapman Tripp Theatre Award winner Gavin Rutherford as the man being kept under lock-and-key, writer Paul Sheldon, with Adam Brookfield rounding out the cast as cop Buster. 

Bain, who designed and ran the Ghost Tour at the Arts Centre, knows a lot about frightening people – which is his aim in bringing Misery to life. 

“We’ll be doing our best to honour the intent of the piece… Our aim is not to please, coddle or pander. Our goal is screams.” 

Stephen King’s Misery
4 – 25 August 2018  
Tonkin & Taylor mainstage at The Court Theatre
Show Times  
Monday & Thursday   6.30pm  
Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat  7.30pm  
Forum     6:30pm Monday 6th August 
Discuss the play with cast and creative team after the performance  
Matinee   2:00pm Saturday 18th August 
Ticket Prices
Adult      $55.00 – $63.00
Senior 65yrs+    $48.00 – $56.00
Supporter    $46.00 – $54.00
Group 6+    $48.00 – $53.00
Child (U18)    $26.00 – $30.00
30 Below (max 2 per person)  $30.00
phone 03 963 0870 or visit  

Annie Wilkes    Lara Macgregor
Paul Sheldon    Gavin Rutherford
Buster     Adam Brookfield 

Director     Dan Bain
Set Designer    Harold Moot
Costume Designer   Hayley Douglas
Lighting Designer/Head Technician   Giles Tanner
Sound Designer/Composer   Andy Manning 
Stage Manager    Jo Bunce

Theatre ,

A deeply satisfying triumph

Review by Lindsay Clark 05th Aug 2018

Suspenseful horror in the thriller genre is to be expected from the acclaimed master, Stephen King, but its adaptation for stage, by William Goldman, is a step further in creative know-how and a step beyond that again to hold an audience in fascinated thrall for two and a bit hours. Dan Bain’s shrewd direction and the combined talents of an outstanding production team and cast bring a gripping plot to excruciatingly real experience for the opening night audience.  

The house lights go down but no stage set immediately appears. Instead we are in that unsettling state where sounds suggest something uncomfortable is about to happen and on the cue of a harsh buzzer, something does.

[While the following may seem to contain spoilers, more is revealed in the media release. Nevertheless you may want to read the rest of this after you have seen the play. – ed.]

We are in Silver Creek, remote Colorado, where a badly mashed up man in a bed is being tended by a sturdy woman who is somehow not reassuring. She has pulled him from his crashed car (unnerving chortle here) and, using her nursing skills, has popped his dislocated shoulder back and set his legs.

This should be a positive revelation, but now we learn that the roads to further help are closed and there is something scary about her very cheerful and down to earth pronouncements. As it is established that he is Paul Sheldon, the famous author of multiple romances featuring Misery Chastain, she proudly asserts that she is the number one fan of all that and we dare not disbelieve, only sense that his reliance on her is going to be fraught.

Thus Annie Wilkes, obsessive follower of Misery, comes into her own. The twists of Sheldon’s recovery and the nightmarish developments they cover, make for riveting theatre, especially when he confesses that his latest work is an attempt to leave the Misery saga behind (after all she died in the last book) and venture into more personal and literary material.

Driven by two fascinating characters, the two hours fly by. The occasional visit of the local sheriff only increases the tension as helpless Sheldon is forced to comply with his fan’s demands and her mental state becomes more and more alarming. What happens when fiction and imagined circumstances become more real than reality makes compelling viewing, relating to the cocaine addiction experienced by King himself. 

The plot poses risks on stage, that such prolonged tension might pall, that pain and violence might misfire, that technical issues with storms, a wheel chair, a three-way revolving set might put the brakes on the fright we are all feeling. It is to the credit of direction and team that none of this happens.

Harold Moot’s set is outstanding in establishing the comfortless farmhouse and its environs. Opportunities to show us a desperate Sheldon retreating to his bed ahead of Annie returning from the village are quite brilliantly presented as the revolve allows multiple rooms on view, moving with the characters.

Lighting design from Giles Tanner and sound/composition from Andy Manning are integrated to great effect. Rising suspense in the action is charged by complementary light and sound. Adding to these production values is the telling work of Hayley Douglas as costume designer. We track Sheldon’s recovery by his clothing and Annie’s countrified gear has just the right witchy component to confirm our unease.

The cast is well served then by the stage picture, but it is their ability to embody and enrich their roles that really lifts the production to first class theatre. As Buster, the local sheriff, Adam Brookfield brings moments of welcome normality before he too is drawn into the bad dream.

Paul Sheldon, by way of Gavin Rutherford, gives us an insight into not only his predicament, convincing though that be, but also into the imagination of the writer and his world.

Lara Macgregor is unforgettable as the physically robust Annie Wilkes, touching lightly on menace but also bringing the frightening irrationality of mental illness to view. She finds vulnerability too in the role, rounding out a character who could have been a mere monster in disguise. 

In sum, the production overlays an acknowledged thriller with deeply satisfying theatre arts, so that the result has to be seen as a triumph for all involved.  


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council