Co-directors: Andrew Quick & Pete Brooks
Film Directed by George A. Romero
It is a rare thing to begin a review praising a show’s projection and video design but Simon Wainwright’s work plays a key role in imitating the dog’s take on George Romero’s classic cult horror film Night of the Living Dead. The original film is on the left screen above the stage, the footage shot live and direct on stage is on the right, and animation and historical archive footage appear on all four walls.
So this is a multimedia extravaganza as much as a piece of theatre; total theatre you might say. Still the ensemble performance is outstanding, with Morgan Bailey as a gun-toting power-mad eccentric leading the action while his nemesis played by Matt Prendergast takes his rival’s actions as a direct threat to his own superiority.
The female actors meanwhile (Laura Atherton, Morren Macbeth, and Adela Rajnović) are played as dumb and passive observers or victims. They find the threat of the ‘ghouls’ (or zombies as they would later become known) too much to take in, leading to traumatic shock.
As well as reacting to the Romero film there are sequences of Americana which set the scene of racial hatred, the Vietnam war and the overthrow of power (Kennedy’s assassination, for example). The violence is given a playful and ironic twist in general but there are some particularly scary scenes, although more psychological than outright physical.
Laura Hopkin’s set is superb with its adaptability and quiet simplicity and her costumes conjure up both the film’s period and its ghoulish apparels. Matthew Tully also adds puppetry to the mix with cars or ghostly figures as tiny models then filmed and blown up in scale. James Hamilton’s music also creates a common thread throughout the show, at times sinister but also capable of playfulness and irony again.
Andrew Croft’s lighting gives clues as to where we should be looking, given the choice of two screens, four walls and the stage itself, and manages a subtlety and intimacy that benefits the performances and the overall show alike.
At the beginning of the piece the audience were giggling and tittering in the aisles but as time went on these became more gasps of dread and astonishment. imitating the dog are always risk-taking, innovating and teasing the spectator which makes their work so special and spectacular. Leeds Playhouse start their season as they mean to go on with work that is riveting, contemporary and controversial.
Runs until 15th February