Entertainment & Arts

Carrie star Evelyn Hoskins: 'I don't do horror'

Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie White Image copyright The Umbrella Rooms
Image caption Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie White: "I'm always playing weirdos"

Carrie: The Musical was a huge musical flop on Broadway in 1988. Now it's back - reworked and rewritten - and about to receive its London premiere.

"I'm always playing weirdos," confesses Evelyn Hoskins.

The actress, who played a shape-shifter in Channel 4 supernatural drama Misfits, is taking on the lead role of troubled teen Carrie White in a musical adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel.

It's a well-known story: Carrie, a high school misfit with an abusive and religious mother, uses telekinesis to punish her tormentors.

When we meet during rehearsals in an east London church, Hoskins and the cast are working on the infamous early scene when Carrie has her first period at school. Unaware of what is happening to her, she panics and is bullied by her classmates.

Image copyright Garry Lake
Image caption Evelyn Hoskins rehearses a scene from Carrie: The Musical
Image copyright Garry Lake
Image caption The Carrie company in rehearsal

Even in the informal rehearsal space, it's a powerful scene to witness.

"I knew the film but I'd never seen it," says Hoskins. "I don't do horror. I'm a bit of a wimp.

"It's such a harrowing story. I've never had such an intense role where it's affected me as a person so much."

King's novel was filmed in 1976, with Sissy Spacek as Carrie and a young John Travolta in a supporting role. A TV film version in 2002 was followed by a cinema remake in 2013 with Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie, and Julianne Moore as her mother.

The Carrie musical dates back to 1988 when it was premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. It went straight to Broadway where it received a critical mauling and ran for just 21 performances, losing several million dollars.

It returned to New York in 2012, heavily revised by original composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and librettist Lawrence D Cohen, for an off-Broadway run.

And now it's making its first trip to London.

"The musical has had a bumpy ride," admits Gary Lloyd, the director and choreographer of the latest version at Southwark Playhouse.

"It's a had a lot of work done to it. We've been sitting on this for about two years - figuring out what to do with it and what audiences would come and see it.

Image copyright Garry Lake
Image caption Director and choreographer Gary Lloyd has had a hit with Thriller Live!

"Southwark developed a strong reputation for making things work that didn't originally and so it felt like the right time and place."

Lloyd - who directed the West End hit Thriller Live! - says the rewrites have focused on the high school scenes - with the dialogue between Carrie and her mother (Kim Criswell) largely untouched.

One scene that Stephen King fans can be sure remains intact is Carrie's final humiliation at the school prom when she gets drenched in pigs' blood.

The special effects are being designed by Jeremy Chernick, who worked on the recent stage adaptation of vampire story Let the Right One In.

"He's in charge of the telekinesis and the blood," says Lloyd. "We're not overdoing it, but hopefully it'll be beautifully executed."

"It's a marriage of special effects and lighting and sound. There's a lot of science that goes into it - we're doing surround-sound under the seats."

Even though she's no horror fan, Hoskins is ready for a nightly drenching in stage blood - and a double helping when there's a matinee. She's already had to film the scene for an online trailer.

"I'm all for it, it's quite bizarre looking down at your body covered in blood, but feeling fine. I'm game."

Lloyd offers a helpful message for audience at the Southwark Playhouse. "I'd say if you don't want to get splattered in blood don't sit on the first two rows."

So why is he taking the risk of putting on a musical that was a spectacular flop on Broadway more than 25 years ago?

"I was at college when it came out and I got hold of a bootleg copy and I became quite obsessed because I was obsessed with the book," he says.

"For it to come around again was a gift. Yes - there's a pressure, but it's an opportunity to get it right. It's about telling it honestly rather than putting on a big production.

"It's as if this was written for us. If anyone comes thinking it's going to another version of the original, hopefully we can turn their minds around."

Carrie: The Musical is at Southwark Playhouse from 1-30 May

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