It is summer 1959 and it’s hot… so hot we accept that it’s also summer 1986… because it’s hot… and because our narrator tells us so.

This is a scintillatingly intense reworking of the novella The Body, which the 1986 film Stand By Me was based on. You know the one, the one with Joaquin Pheonix’s tragic brother and that Will Wheaton guy from the Big Bang… oh and the fat kid who grew up to be Jerry O’Connell.

The novella was written by the oh-so-prolific horror writer Stephen King, I am sure everyone will know. It is, for most people, along with The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, probably the greatest proof of his genius, with Carrie, Christine and the other magisterial horrors not taken as seriously as his more accessible, non-horror tales.

But anyway, back to Castle Rock… this is a play that will thrill any audience member. With its audacious use of lighting and sound techniques, and its innovative interplay between text and movement, this is a production without an ounce of body fat, a lean to the bone adaption of the source material, which boils away any of the negative connotations which the apparently endless supply of awful Stephen-King-story based movies might illicit in the mind of the prospective theatre goer.

Miles from any notion of schlock horror, this supremely confident work moves in that most potent area of King’s writing, that profoundly unsettling neighbourhood in Americana he seems to inhabit with David Lynch. Its only weakness is that some of the transitions between scenes have a bit of that ‘okay enough of that, on to the next bit’ feel about them, something which could define all experimental theatre and performance art pieces as a genre.

But that is ridiculous nit-picking, this is an exceptional piece of theatre which fearlessly explores the dark corners of the teenage male psyche, and does so with a freight-train rhythm that won’t stop, can’t stop and will run over if you give it a chance.

It’s even better that Rob Reiner’s version, and that is saying something!

Castle Rock ran from the 4th to the 5th of March in the Project Arts Centre
Devised and Performed by Jenny Duffy, Sam Powell and Danny Prosser
Additional Music by Sammy Metcalfe/Sleepwalk Collective
Photography by Paul Samuel White

By Andrew Doyle