King of Bangor
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King of Bangor

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Playwright Lee Gambin answers these questions in his new play King of Bangor, which features King in his rightful place – a throne, centre-stage. “In King of Bangor, the characters that surround Stephen King morph from ‘real life’ characters (his press agent, his errands boys…) into his creations (Donna Trenton from Cujo, Jack Torrance from The Shining…) and then they also plague his mind as ideas people – they offer suggestions; writing suggestions,” says Gambin who, during a single act, unwinds the macabre production from the author’s tangled overripe imagination. “What they ultimately do is bombard him with so many ideas that it builds tension with nightmarish results. The scariest thing for Stephen King in this play is the idea of not being able to get through the thickets; to be completely consumed by writer’s block.”

King’s characters in the play are not direct copies of those in the books and resulting films. This would be an injustice to the complexity of the lives King creates. “King has an amazing talent for writing solid, interesting characters,” says Gambin. “And not just the protagonists and main characters – every single character that populates his book has such flesh, such depth.” It was thus important to truly grasp the nature of these creations in order to intertwine the players with each other during the dark, psychological unearthing we see on the stage. For his research, director Dione Joseph says that he read books and watched the movies “to allow the medley of emotions, nuances and subtleties created by King to ferment in my brain.”

Dion’s exceptional casting sees Peter Berzanskis playing King. Berzanskis’ deeply set eyes and aquiline nose surely portray the exquisite intensity expected in a representation of the father of horror. Then there are four others – Reville Smith, Nicholas Brien, Tamara Donnellan and Mim. “The cast is made up of Stephen King and four archetypal representations of humanity – an earthy motherly type, an older man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a beautiful young nymphette and an innocent youth; they all come to shape-shift, I guess into varying characters from the Stephen King universe,” says Gambin.

In order to understand the complexities of the characters, Joseph ensured an extensive training regime for the five actors. “Once they had completed their basic research it began a different stage in the rehearsal room where we explored different notions of creator and product, writer and text, the voices of the subconscious and the blurring lines between reality and illusion,” says Joseph.

While the play explores the horizon between reality and imagination, Gambin doesn’t believe that King’s disturbing visions come from a seemingly essential twisted mentality. “From his biographical writing and interviews King seems totally together and completely sane. He is one of those wonderful artists who is not only a genius but an extremely down to earth genius. Also, there is absolutely no pretension with his work.”

Obviously Gambin is a huge King fan. In addition to his playwriting, he is a contributor to Fangoria – a US based horror publication which, incidentally, Stephen King writes for also. But unfortunately the two have yet to collide. “I would absolutely love to meet Stephen King,” says Gambin. “The staff at Fangoria know him well, so I am sure he knows about the play. I’m very, very interested to see what he thinks about it. As a huge fan it would be amazing to hear what he says.”