Home Theatre, Manchester; Thursday 6th July 2017
Castle Rock by the Bristol-based Massive Owl theatre company is a dark and dangerous thriller that will follow you home from the theatre and sneak under your bed when you’re not looking – before suddenly jumping out in the middle of the night when you think you’ve forgotten about it.
Based on the much-loved 1986 cult film Stand By Me, the performance is centred around Ray – a wimpy looking kid who puts himself through a heavy training schedule in order to fight the older brother who keeps kicking his arse.
Ray is inspired by Evel Knievel jumping over the Grand Canyon, he sees himself as being capable of equally great things. But circumstances change, and instead of facing his older brother head on, Ray ends up facing a speeding train.
Castle Rock is a moody and atmospheric offering, the tension of the plotline hangs heavy in the air. It takes some time to gain an understanding of what’s happening, but once the story becomes clear the finale between Ray and the train arrives with great drama and a surprisingly alarming ferocity.
Accompanying sound effects and background music are all improvised by the performing cast recording their own voices and them playing them back on a loop, the technique works well and adds to the already present tension. Equally impressive is the use of lighting, an overhead projector held in the hands becomes the only light source in the theatre, it is cleverly used to illuminate the characters as they approach the impending showdown between Ray and the train.
As a theatrical performance this achieves two notable things: it matches the classic movie upon which it is based by inducing a warm pity for the characters and circumstances being portrayed; it also genuinely creates the kind of sense of anxiety and shock that might normally take a Hollywood budget to realise. Very impressive for an hour’s work.