Review: Night of the Living Dead Remix at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre
Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse have co-produced a visual assault on the senses in this fascinating and unique remake of the cult 60s horror film.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but as a fan of the horror genre, attendance was a no-brainer.
How do you re-create George A Romero's controversial and groundbreaking 1968 cult classic for the modern stage, whilst also capturing its critical reception and metaphors of war, racism, sexism and the American psyche?
Here's how Imitating the Dog did it, and I've never seen anything like it.
Two large screens are suspended side by side above the stage, one showing the original film in its entirety, the other displaying what's happening on the stage below via two live hand held cameras and one static, all worked by the cast.
Table top model stages recreating the wider spaces in the film - including the opening scene of the car as it approaches the farmhouse along winding roads - sit to the sides of the stage.
A tiny model car on a stick moves in time with the Pontiac Lemans of the original as the ominous music kicks off the first scene.
Miniature stick men and women hobble about for the ghoul scenes.
Onstage, a staircase, a door, a chair, and a desk, little more.
Your eyes naturally flit between the two screens and the stage, as it becomes populated with the cast. And at first it's a bit dizzying.
But the scenes begin to meld and become coherent.
You're in the cemetery, and before you know it, a ghoul is upon you, or, at least, on the female "lead" Barbara.
Her brother Johnny gets it, but Barbara escapes to a nearby farmhouse and the plot moves on from here...
What immediately becomes apparent is how much work is going on on-stage, and how seamless it is.
Each scene has been painstakingly recreated to match the original film, but what you see happening on stage doesn't necessarily match that.
What you see on the second screen though, does.
Mannerisms, body movements, speech, accents, camera angles and shots, and clothing, are all uncannily, and sometimes humorously, accurate.
Before long, Ben arrives at the farmhouse, and the rest of the cast are gradually introduced.
I found that you had to watch all of the action on the two screens as well as onstage to get the full gist of what the directors are aiming to achieve.
Complicated actions and movements on stage result in simple replications on the screen, but the skill in producing this - both by cast and direction - is exceptional.
The ghouls/zombies often walk on the spot, and escape scenes are in slow motion (no change there then!), but there's so much more going on in the background, and it's hard to keep up, or get away.
The stage lighting and hand drawn projections cleverly recreate the mood and settings of the original, and it's a wonder how the cast have managed to comply with all the intricacies involved.
There's recordings of speeches from John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and video footage from the Vietnam war, which give the film and its director's historical context, and the portrayal of Barbara is startling simply in that it mimics the portrayal in the original film.
The potential fallout from the spread of a virus, radiation, or just general hysteria and madness is a well explored trope here too.
The production is a feast for the eyes and the senses, and any fan of the original needs to see it.
It begs the question, what other films could be brought back to life, so to speak, in this or other ingenious ways, and presented on the stage?
Night of the Living Dead Remix is at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal on Wednesday March 4, Nottingham Playhouse on March 10 and 11, Dundee Rep on March 13 and 14, and Home in Manchester from March 18 to 21.