Writer Torben Betts has had the tricky task of adapting a famous film, Get Carter, in a new version for the stage.
The play, which is at Cast in Doncaster next week, was a cult hit as a film starring Michael Caine as a violent gangster out for revenge over the death of his bnrother.
Torben said: “It’s very famous because of the film. My adaptation is a reaction to the novel on which the film was based. It was published in 1969-70.
“I hesitate to say my version is closer to the novel than the film but I’ve got slightly more into the mood of the protagonists.
“The film was just Michael Caine being hard, cool and killing people.
“I’m looking at why he became that kind of guy and what it is about the world that he was born into.
“What created a violent, unhappy man amid the landscape of industrial post-war decline.”
Torben said that the set is very evocative, looking like a 1960s bombsite familiar to anyone who grew up in the northern cities of the time.
Unlike the film, set in Newcastle, the novel has links to Doncaster, although Torben said it wasn’t specified.
Lead character Jack Carter gets off the train at Doncaster, said Torben, although he thinks the area around Scunthorpe is a more likely setting. One character is called Brumby, which is the name of a village nearby.
Clearly, that wasn’t cool enough for the film-makers. They chose Newcastle for the film because of the bridges and general misery of the 60s. Newcastle has traded off it ever since.”
As a North-Eastern theatre company commissioned the work, Torben kept the setting in Newcastle. Just about the whole cast are Geordies.
Torben said: “It did very well in Newcastle but I guess it could have gone the other way, as people had expectations based on the film.”
So the accents are a lot more authentic than in the film made in 1971. Apparently director Mike Hodges said: “Does it matter? They’re northern.”
Torben was bemused by the reaction to the play in affluent Richmond in North Yorkshire.
“Why come to a play about Geordie gangsters if you have problems with the accent? There were a lot of complaints about the swearing.
“I was waiting outside on the first night there. When it finished, there was a stampede of mainly ladies in expensive coats.
“One woman spotted me and waved her walking stick at me, saying, ‘Worst play I’ve seen in 40 years of coming to this theatre’. I’m sure they had a moan about it down the Conservative club.”
He’s sure Doncaster audiences are made of sterner stuff.
Get Carter is at Cast next week from Tuesday to Saturday. Box office: 01302 303 959 or visit castindoncaster.com