Q+A with Get Carter writer Torben Betts

Get Carter has been adapted into a new stage play by Berwick-Upon-Tweed based writer Torben Betts. 

Get Carter writer Torben Betts. Credit Northern News.

Based on Ted Lewis' novel Jack's Return Home, Torben's version is less of the gangster caper of the 1971 film version starring Michael Caine, and more a psychological thriller getting into the mind of a criminal set against the backdrop of a decaying post-industrial city.

"Where the film is all surface gloss, the novel and Betts’s script immerse us in the point of view of a man whose mind is increasingly unhinged by what he discovers grubbing around in the seedy underbelly of his home town" The Times ★★★★
"a production that operates on numerous different levels" The Guardian ★★★★
Kevin Wathen as Jack Carter. Credit Topher McGill. 
Before the play opened at Newcastle's Northern Stage, Torben answered some questions about his new work.

Were you were already familiar with the book Jack’s Return Home?
I have to admit I came to the whole project with very little knowledge of either the book or the film. My adaptation is very much a reaction to the novel, upon which the film was based and I think perhaps having no preconceptions may have freed me up creatively.

Why were you particularly drawn to the story?
The story of Get Carter/Jack’s Return Home is in itself quite simple. A gangster goes back to his home town to bury his older brother and he suspects foul play. He trawls around the town’s underworld, making enquiries (with increasing brutality) until he discovers his suspicions are well-founded. He then takes his revenge, destroying himself in the process. What was more interesting to Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director of Northern Stage and Director of Get Carter, and myself was to look at how we could re-imagine this very well-known narrative. To look at Jack’s environment growing up as he did in a brutalised post-war world. The sense of landscape is very much a feature of the novel and clearly we are allowed much more insight into Jack’s thought processes in the novel than we are in the film. I wanted to look at the kind of man Jack Carter is, why he became the way he did. He is a sick (insane) man in a sick (insane) society and the play is like a journey for him as he gradually discovers this fact.

Credit Leo Warner

How have you found the creative process? 
If you ask any writer what they want most of all when they are making stuff up then it’s freedom. And I’ve been granted that. It’s been very liberating. Lorne has allowed me free rein to go wherever I want with this adaptation. Originally I had the idea of re-imagining the story as a Greek drama, with masks and a chorus and so on and indeed I wrote quite a lot in this way before abandoning it. This is the first time I have adapted a novel for the stage (I adapted The Seagull for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre last summer but that’s another thing entirely) and it’s been hard but enjoyable work. Though of course I have done all the writing, Lorne has been very much involved structurally and concept-wise and so it’s been very much a collaboration. I’m not really used to working in this way but we get on well and respect each other’s instincts so there haven’t (so far) been any clashes!

Get Carter

Don't miss this dark and stylish crime thriller when it moves into the Citizens from next Tuesday 8 - Saturday 12 March only.

8 - 12 March