This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
Inspired by Stephen King’s novella The Body, which was subsequently adapted into the cult film Stand By Me, Castle Rock re-imagines this well-known story and is presented by Bristol-based theatre company Massive Owl.
As with any adaptation, Stand By Me didn’t remain wholly truthful to Stephen King’s original story, so it seems fitting that Massive Owl should present their distortion of the story using elements from the film but taking them in a totally different direction. Castle Rock follows three of the voiceless characters from both versions of the story: Ray (Danny Prosser), Train (Jenny Duffy), and The Deer (Sam Powell). Ray, though not one of the main group of friends in Stand By Me, was the instigator for the boys going on their adventure – he is the body the boys set out to find. Without him there would be no story, and it is Ray and his journey towards the inevitable that Castle Rock explores.
The distortion of the tale comes not only in its performance but also in the condensation of characters from the original and the skewed location and times. Some of the performance is narrated and in an almost hypnotic manner the audience is informed that it is 1959… and 1986. These dates represent the year that the film Stand By Me was set in and the year in which it was made and allow for Castle Rock to play with elements spanning the decades. Several other aspects of Stand By Me are used throughout the performance, such as the reliance on text, which is typed live and projected onto the performance space. Looped sounds are used to evoke a sense of place as well as distort and interrupt. With very little Castle Rock manages to do a lot. Its use of lighting and projection is notable, particularly in The Deer scenes; however, it does rely a little too much on this method at times. This is a highly original and creative piece that takes a while to buy into but has moments of ingenuity that are impressive.
For all the obvious differences between the artistic performance of Castle Rock and the comparatively straight-laced Stand By Me, the core of the story remains the same. Loss, in its many forms, can have an untold impact and acceptance is the only way to overcome it. Some things in life change, some remain the same. You can’t outrun a train.
Runs until 5 March 2016 @ Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
Image: Massive Owl.