Night of the Living Dead Live! at Pleasance Theatre
Here’s a rollercoaster theatrical experience, an uproarious ghost train that jolts your nerves and your funny bone in the most thrilling ways.
Benji Sperring directs this stage adaptation of George A Romero’s beloved horror classic of the same name, where a motley crew takes refuge in an old farmhouse during the zombie apocalypse. The movie’s finale, in which lead character Ben is mistaken for a zombie and shot dead at the order of local sheriff Chief McCleland, serves as a wraparound narrative for this perspective-flipping version.
Initially recounting the events as they were in the film, Night of the Living Dead Live! takes a turn at the intermission when the original story concludes and the sheriff posits an alternate scenario on how the group could’ve reversed their fortunes. After his suggestion leads to doom (again), we’re taken on a hugely enjoyable ride of his alternate timeline theories. Half of them are reflections of the strong social commentary in Romero’s work, half of them are simply comically logical ideas, all of them incredibly fun.
Audiences can sit in the Splatter Zone, situated in the middle of the stage, where they are equipped with grey outfits provided by the Pleasance for protection against the blood splatter from the zombie action around them. Terrific blocking realises a seamless space for the actors to work, preventing the close proximity of a dozen audience members as a potential distraction.
This is cult theatre perfectly crafted, striking a fabulous tone of horror and comedy, drawing on inspirations like classic B-movies and camp as well as the seminal source material. Black-and-white set design of the house interior is complemented by costume and makeup work that fits the same appealing monochrome colour palette. The staging is remarkable: doors, windows, and even cupboards serve as avenues of physical interaction and set-ups for hilarious moments. Like the best theatre, the laughs are not only in the brilliant dialogue (“You’re thicker than a one dollar shake!”) but also in the material use of the playhouse.
A fantastic cast deserves to be individually commended but special mention goes to Jennifer Harding who deftly plays two wildly different characters – the bumbling blonde Judy and the toughnut matriarch Helen – with a simple but effective costume change and flawless vocal manipulation. The only spottiness regarding performance is a couple of dodgy American accents, yet even they add to the endearing campy value. Night of the Living Dead Live! is pure cult awesomeness.
Night of the Living Dead Live! is at Pleasance Theatre from 9th April until 19th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Night of the Living Dead Live! here: