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BWW Review: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE!, Pleasance Theatre

BWW Review: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE!, Pleasance Theatre

BWW Review: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE!, Pleasance TheatreAs in a TV show you may have heard about, the Dead are coming for us, the Living, and they're not going to take no for an answer.

But this isn't Westeros, it's West Pennsylvania, and there are no dragons, just flickering cigarette lighters to keep the zombies at bay - unsurprisingly, such firepower proves inadequate.

Or maybe not. What we get in this comedy take on George A. Romero's cult classic movie of the same name is a second act of "If onlys". Rather like our recent experience of Winterfell, we eavesdrop on people thrown together by a common enemy, each with different motivations, all needing each other to survive. Will the necessary compromises be?

If that makes it sound like the corporate team-building awayday from hell crossed with a particularly energetic analysis of applied game theory (and there were times when it felt like both those things), I would be remiss not to say that there are plenty of laughs along the way. It also helps that it's very beautiful to look at, Diego Pitarch's set and costumes washing everything down to the monochrome of the movie that inspired the pastiche.

Of course, it's all done with a nod and a wink - sometimes literally - as the cast cycle through the scenarios in which they die in ever more outlandish ways.

Marc Pickering has a lot of fun with his headstrong idiot Harry, locking horns with his brighter, but no less intransigent rival for leadership, Ben (Ashley Samuels). Jennifer Harding gets the best gig as Helen and Judy, one as smart as the other is dumb, but both instinctively understanding that it's not the zombies that need attention, but the male egos paralysing negotiation.

Just when we begin to tire of yet another trip round the houses (well, the kitchen and cellar), it's all over with a valedictory splattering of gore and goo.

So hats off to director, Benji Sperring, and his hard-working cast of six (not to mention all those lighting cues from the desk) for taking on not one, but two genres somewhat unrepresented in theatre. But I'm left wondering if the show succeeds sufficiently as either a comedy vehicle or as a horror thriller. It navigates between those two stools without falling, but there are times when it needed a bit of a helping hand to get back up again.

So not quite the full Play That Goes Wrong parody (the first half is largely a straight boiling down of the movie) and not quite the Grand Guignol bloody mess either. If only they had committed to one or the other...

Night of the Living Dead Live! continues at the Pleasance London until 8 June.

BWW's interview with two members of the cast, Mike Bodie and Mari McGinlay

Photo Claire Bilyard




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From This Author Gary Naylor