The Night of the Living Dead – Live. The Pleasance Theatre, North Road, London N7. 2**. William Russell

By Christopher Bond, Dale Boyer & Trevor Martin.
The Pleasance, Carpenter’s Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF to 19 May 2019.
Tues-Sat 7.3opm not Wed. Mad Sat & Wed 2.3opm. Sun 5pm.
Runs 2hr 15mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7609 1800

Review: William Russell 16 April.

The living dead were all over the place
Heaven knows what George A Romero did to deserve this stylish, camp and exhausting version of his famous much imitated horror film.
It has its place in cinema history as the first, or one of the first, films about zombies – inhabitants of a small American town infected by radiation from a space rocket turned into flesh eating monsters – which not only hit the mood of the time in 1968 but set he trend for decades to come. This production, which is indeed stylish with a set all pastel greys by Diego PItarch, plays it for laughs and, for reasons it is hard to discern, has sixteen audience members seated on stage in a circle in groups of four. They do not contribute to the action although they are wearing protection clothing as blood does fly.
The first act is pretty well the film as the newly dead besiege their living relatives, act two is all about what would happen if they had gone down to the cellar or upstairs or whatever. The cast double roles with great energy and skill and it ends with an extremely jaunty song to send everyone one out into the night of North Road, one of London’s less attractive thoroughfares, feeling life is for living. The packed house enjoyed it, the cast received a standing ovation at the end and in terms of entertainment value if this is your bag then it probably deserves more stars that two. But it was not my bag and stars are supposed to mean something – so take it as if you decide to go in the first place you will not be disappointed unless you are a film buff at which point you will wonder why they did it. The director Benji Sperring in the programme said that throughout his career he has only ever thought about what would be fun and cool to see on the stage. “Isn’t that the reason we come to see stuff like this?” he wrote. “Christ alive, the world might be turning to shit, but rest safe in the knowledge that at this little haven in Caledonian Road we’ll be here to scare the bejasus out of you and hopefully make a bit of wee come out in laughter.”
Some jokes are good, several are even older than time itself, including the one about the characters who can never be on stage at the same time as they are played – remarkably well as it happens – by the same actor. The one moment, loud bangs apart, that was genuinely scary was when one of them got their arm ripped off centre stage. Nobody saw that coming. For those who like this sort of thing it is the sort of thing they will like. Critics, I have to say, will almost certainly not like it and this one did not. It is, however, well done even if not really worth doing.

Ben:Ashley Samuels.
Helen/Judy: Jennifer Harding.
Harry: Marc Pickering.
Barbara: Mari McGinlay.
Chief McClelland: Mike Brodie.
Tom/Vince: Tana Phethean.

Director: Benji Sperring.
Designer: Diego Pitarch.
Lighting Designer: Nic Farman.
Soudscape Designer & Composer: Samuel West.
Sound Designers: James Nicholson & Paul Gavin.
Production photographs: Claire Bilyard.

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