The Exorcist receives its West End opening tonight so we spoke with cast members Clare Louise Connolly (Regan), Jenny Seagrove (Chris MacNeil) and Adam Garcia (Father Damien Karras) to find out what curdles their blood and chills their spines.
Have you ever seen a theatre ghost?
Jenny: I was in my dressing room at Wyndham’s doing The Miracle Worker when my dog started barking. Suddenly, I felt a presence in the room and it felt like a woman. The next day I asked the theatre manager if they had a ghost and he said ‘oh yeah, it’s a little old lady. She’s quite belligerent’. She wasn’t to me, she was quite nice.
Claire: I’ve never seen a theatre ghost, but I do believe I saw my grandad the afternoon that he died. I was performing in War Horse and I saw his proud beaming face watching me from the audience, at that point I didn’t know he’d passed away earlier that morning.
Adam: I haven’t. I did see a ghost in a castle once though, it came through the wall and looked at me. I told it to f*** off, which I regret because I think it just wanted to chat.
What’s your spookiest moment in a theatre?
Adam: I was playing Fiyero in Wicked and during the interval I was drying my tights with a hairdryer because I had spilt water down myself. I suddenly realised that the tannoy was calling my cue and I had missed it by almost two minutes. There was a stage full of people waiting for me, I had stopped their show!
Claire: It takes a lot to actually scare me. But I recently saw Billie Piper in Yerma and that has stayed with me. She was incredible and the play was harrowing.
Jenny: Again, in The Miracle Worker, in the last moment of the play, I felt the characters there. Not the actress, the real Helen Keller coming towards me. It was the most transcendental moment, it was deeply, deeply moving.
What’s your biggest theatrical fear?
Claire: There’s that anxiety dream where you’ve been thrown on last minute for a part you’ve never played before. It actually happened for real to me a few years ago; I got a call at 9.00am as their actress had bronchitis. I had to go on with the actual script in hand. I was terrified, but I had a lot of fun.
Jenny: Definitely forgetting my lines – it’s probably every actor’s biggest fear.
Adam: I think everyone has the fear of not knowing what the hell comes next. I dried with Judi Dench once, she was looking at me really intensely and I suddenly realised it was because I had no idea what my line was!
What do you find the most disturbing/scariest moment in The Exorcist?
Claire: All of it! We’ve worked hard with the director Sean Mathias to make it as real and believable as we can.
Jenny: For me the most disturbing moment is where Regan cuts herself with a knife – it’s tough to watch.
Adam: I can’t really give them away because if they disturb me they’re definitely going to disturb the audience. I do hear screams and gasps coming from the audience though, and then mutterings – so I know they are frightened.