In London, in 2005, the most curious thing happened.  A musical version of Vincent Price's 1973 classic (and favorite horror film) 'Theatre of Blood' was produced on stage for a limited run.  Actor Jim Broadbent ('Moulin Rouge,' 'Iris,' 'Hot Fuzz' and others) played Price's character 'Edward Lionheart,' while Lionheart's daughter was played by Rachael Stirling, the real-life daughter of Diana Rigg, who played the part in the original film!  Here is some information and a gallery of photos about the show.

 

THEATRE OF BLOOD
by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott

Based on the MGM/Sam Jaffe/Harbor Productions film
an idea by Stanley Mann and John Kohn
and the screenplay by Anthony Greville-Bell
by special arrangement with MGM on Stage

A collaboration between the National Theatre and Improbable.

Closed 10 September 2005

Director: Phelim McDermott
Designer: Rae Smith
Associate Director: Lee Simpson
Lighting Designer: Colin Grenfell
Music: Joby Talbot
Published by Chester Music Limited

Illusionist: Paul Kieve
Fight Director: Terry King
Sound Designer: Gareth Fry

Cast:
Chorus : Gerard Bell
George Maxwell : Paul Bentall
Michael Merridew : Bette Bourne
Edward Lionheart : Jim Broadbent
Sally Patterson : Hayley Carmichael
Chloe Moon : Sally Dexter
Chorus : Stephen Harper
Chorus : Nick Haverson
Peter Delvin : Mark Lockyer
Oliver Larding : Tim McMullan
Chorus : Rachael Spence
Trevor Dickens : Steve Steen
Miranda Lionheart : Rachael Stirling
Chorus : Victoria Willing
Chorus :
Edward Woodall

Phelim Remembers

First published in The Update - the magazine for supporters of the National Theatre.

Why have you chosen to recreate a classic Vincent Price film onstage? Are you big fan’s of Hammer horror?

I first saw “Theatre of Blood” on Friday late night television it was for me a thrilling combination: A horror film about actors. Although this film was not actually a Hammer Film it was in some ways in the same mould as those great British horror films. Made by MGM it was populated by a fantastic line up of British Character actors. There is of course a very obvious reason for creating a play of this film for the stage; It is about the theatre. Or rather it is the tragic story of a grand old actor who takes revenge on his critics by murdering them in a Shakespearean way.

The idea of doing it onstage is one of those mad ideas that is just too enticing to avoid. Our best shows have come from those kind of rash decisions. Set in a theatre we feel that lots of elements of the film will become even more exciting to be played on a stage. The natural place to see these Shakespearean murders is in live

performance. The play is a celebration of unbridled theatricality and beautiful over the top acting. It is also a great challenge for an actor to play these scenes as wonderfully as possible. It is our concept that Lionheart is very much a Prospero figure who has marooned the critics on his theatre island. In our version we have intensified the character of Lionheart’s obsession with Shakespeare, he is a great actor who in the mould of Edmund Kean is not afraid to go over the top! Anyone who has seen our shows will know that we love to celebrate big performances. We feel that it’s what audiences truly love to see; theatre doing what it does best, being theatrical. The show will also be aided in this by Rae Smith’s amazing designs and Joby Talbots beautiful live score.

We have set the piece in the time it was made which was the mid seventies and were interested that this was also the time when the NT was being built. We were intrigued to see if we could include that sense of time in the play. It was a moment when the era of the great actor managers was coming to an end. A new breed of theatre maker was taking over. The story is the Tragedy of a man who’s time is done and he decides to not go gently but to take the idea of revenge a little too far. One of the things that people remember from the film is the way Vincent Price gets a chance to play all these Shakespeare characters. He doesn’t parody the performance and he does it from the heart. It is actually rather touching, we are aiming to capture some of that. When he kills the critics it is of course truly shocking.

Why is horror still so popular?

The theatre is a place where through storytelling we can deal with our fears. It just so happens that for an actor those nightmares are a group of critics! What actor hasn’t dreamt of taking revenge at some point. Audiences love to be frightened in a safe place! To those ends we will be working with Paul Kieve the fantastic illusionist to ensure that the murders are as convincing and entertaining as possible. I’m sure the companies who make stage blood have been talking about the production already!

What can we expect?

It is Important I think if you have a play called “Theatre Of Blood” that it contains what it says on the tin. There will be Blood. It will be frightening. It will be funny. There is a great tradition of horror in the theatre From Grand Guingol and Victorian Melodrama to the “Theatrical Disasters” of Sensation Smith at Drury lane. It is our intention to bring some of the spirit of this kind of theatre back to life. It will be “Theatre how it’s meant to be” as Edward Lionheart would no doubt say.

Plans for after TOB?

Leave the country to avoid the critics.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
Photos by Keith Pattison and Stephen Cummiskey  Click HERE to see the original pdf info kit!

The Vincent Price Exhibit

Created January 29, 2009, Richard D Squires.