By Michelle Rawlins
The creative crew at Imitating The Dog certainly know how to adapt an iconic classic. After their last technical masterpiece, in the form of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, attacking capitalism and global marketisation, it’s no great surprise to see their latest production take on another dramatic twist.
This extraordinary stage adaptation of George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie film, Night of The Living Dead, is a multi-layered and incredibly cleverly put together piece of theatre.
Artistic directors, Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, move the cinematic hit onto a new level by arming the seven-person multirole playing cast with cameras and props to film the re-make, while the cult original is shown on suspended screens.
Your eyes flit between the original and the dynamic actors, who intricately and perfectly reproduce, shot-for-shot, scenes from the thriller, where the ‘ghouls’ come back to life and attack the terrified living.
The precise attention to detail is astonishing as each section is ingeniously reproduced, pulling in the audience as they recapture the chilling atmosphere that left cinema goers at the low-budget American movie on the edge of their seats over five decades ago.
As the script naturally evolves, from one murderous scene to another, the fear and terror felt by the group of petrified strangers hauled up in an isolated farmhouse, surrounded by the cannibalistic flesh-eating zombies, is ever-present.
The 95-minute piece of unique theatre, does have its lighter moments though, where amusingly model cars and characters are used to reproduce fragments from the horror movie, a welcome break from the intense, and nerve-inducing at times, plot as you wait to discover if anyone will escape without being eaten alive by the bloody thirsty ghouls.
Despite the inevitable goriness, it’s virtually impossible to turn away, as you are magnetically pulled into every macabre jaw-dropping scene, where the acute attention to precise detail is astonishing.
Characters flit between being part of the terrorised to taking the parts of understandably alarmed news readers reporting on the mass emergency that is threatening to bring the American Dream to an abrupt and bloody end.
Alongside the reproduction of the unforgettable horror, cleverly weaved into the narrative is a reminder of the politically troubled nation that witnessed not only the assassination of JFK, his brother, Robert and Martin Luther King but is still reeling from the Vietnam War.
Without a doubt this incredible experimental piece of theatre is as remarkable as it is innovative. A truly impressive production that is like nothing else out there and not to be missed by anyone who enjoys seeing stage performance taken to a new level.
Reviewed at Leeds Playhouse. Photography by Edward Waring.
Touring until March 21