Freda Worrell reviews ‘Night of the Living Dead’ at Northcott Theatre.
As the horror genre goes there is very little we have not seen before. The call is coming from inside the house,Bruce Willis has been dead the whole time, if you are a blonde woman you may as well give up.
In this revival of Night of the Living Dead (a collaboration between Imitating the Dog and Leeds PlayHouse) however, they revamped a classic story in a way that was fresh and interesting while still keeping within the themes and ideas that made it so relevant in the first place.
An independent film from 1968, Night of the Living Dead tells the story of a group of strangers trapped in a house during a Zombie outbreak, where they grapple for leadership and desperately try to survive. The story begins by following Barbra ( Laura Atherton and Adela Rajnovic) and her brother Johnny ( Will Holsted) as they lay flowers on their mother’s grave only to be attacked by a strange and silent man. Barbra flees and finds herself in an abandoned house with our hero Ben (Morgan Bailey)the Coopers (Matt Prendergast and Morven Macbeth) a mother and father trapped in the cellar with their dying child and Judy and Tom ( Adela Rajnovic and Will Holstead) our loveable cannon fodder.
“… revamped a classic story in a way that was fresh and interesting while still keeping within the themes and ideas that made it so relevant in the first place.”
One of the most important factors of a horror production is the element of suspense; if you are not constantly afraid that a character is about to die in some sudden and horrific way then there really is no point to it.
The play ( directed by Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks) did this brilliantly- on a screen above the stage they played the original movie where the actors before us moved seamlessly in time to the original cast, with their movements being filmed by the rest of the company and shown on another screen above them. Incredibly impressive was the actors ability to mimic the original film, even their facial expressions were perfectly in time and exactly the same. It was a clever and artistic interpretation, if slightly confusing about where to look at times.
Another added feature was the news footage shown on the back wall (Simon Wainwright), of the assinations of Kenneday, the Martin Luther-King Jr “ I have a dream speech” and the Vietnam war- a way of bringing some of the subtle messages of the original film to life in a more obvious and hard hitting way. They timed the footage to coincide nicely with the fights against the monsters; the brutal and gory fight scenes ( complete with fake intestines) showed the brutality we see in real life outbreaks of violence.
“Another added feature was the news footage shown on the back wall… a way of bringing some of the subtle messages of the original film to life in a more obvious and hard hitting way.”
Far from a heartwarming story of people coming together in the face of adversity, rising up against a common evil and working together to resolve their differences the play wasted no time in showing just how quickly and easily we will turn on each other when we feel threatened. Wrestling for weapons and control, fighting over resources and the best plan of action the story was chaos from start to finish-with enough bloody and surprising deaths as well as the odd explosion to keep you on the edge of your seat.
“… social and political message was loud and clear without preaching… “
The play managed to stay true to all of the charm held by the original while using unconventional and intrepid methods to keep us entertained, whose social and political message was loud and clear without preaching, with the performance of the zombies (Luke Bigg) ironically full of life; with all the vileness, groaning and horrific humanity that make them such a beloved monster.
I would highly recommend the production to both horror film fanatics and people like me ( for whom Coraline is the scariest film they have ever seen and need the twenty minute intermission to come to terms with the fact that they are a complete wuss). Full of fear, fun and foolish choices and a resolution that will anger and sadden you in a brutally realistic way.