REVIEW: Night of the Living Dead Live, Pleasance Theatre

The stage production based on George A Romero’s classic horror film is a lively and surprisingly funny show to watch – even if the plot is a bit thin.

(c) Claire Bilyard.

Zombies. Check. Chaos. Check. Audience getting covered in blood. Check. This is just a few of the things to expect from Benji Sperring’s lively and surprisingly funny production based on George A. Romero’s classic zombie film.

At the centre of its story, Night of the Living Dead is essentially about five characters trying to outsmart a bunch of zombies (or ghouls as they are referred to here) who are killing and gorging on everyone in sight in the town where they live. But of course, not everything goes according to plan and leads to a lot of violence and blood being shed.

While the plot is considerably thin and not quite as scary as perhaps promised, writers Christopher Bond, Dale Boyer and Trevor Martin have written a script that is surprisingly witty from start to finish – particularly in the second act which is formed of ‘what if scenarios’ had the story ended differently, that gives the cast a lot to bounce off in Sperring’s quirky production.

(c)Claire Bilyard.

But what this production most excels at is the visuals and the sound effects. Diego Pitarch’s wonderful monochrome set design, adds to the bleak atmosphere while paying tribute to the original black and white 1968 film. Meanwhile, Samuel West’s soundscape design does add a much needed chill down the spine that can be lacking elsewhere, while Nic Farman’s lighting design is also brilliantly effective throughout.

The main issue with this stage adaptation is that the original film is covered in the first act and then bulked up with ‘what if scenarios’ that can make it feel like two different shows that you are watching and not one coherent one. However, despite this it never takes tries to take itself too seriously and this does mean that the audience are entertained to an extent thanks to it feeling like a spoof – particularly when it comes to the characters.

(c) Claire Bilyard.

The cast deliver some wonderfully quirky performances. In particular, Marc Pickering as the somewhat pompous Harry delivering a lot of comedy value with his mannerisms and Jennifer Harding as both the long suffering Helen and the love-struck Judy offering a nice contrast between both characters who delight equally.

While there are certain elements of the show (particularly on the writing side of things to help develop the plot more) that need a bit of work, Night of the Living Dead is a lively and entertaining show that is surprisingly fun to watch – even if you are like me and are a bit squeamish about this sort of thing!

By Emma Clarendon

Night of the Living Dead Live continues to play at the Pleasance Theatre until the 8th June. To book tickets click here or visit: From the Box Office, Theatre Tickets, Last, See Tickets or Encore Tickets.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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