Director: Pete Brooks and Andrew Quick
Imitating the Dog are currently taking a break from their recent run of adaptations of novels, like A Farewell To Arms and Heart of Darkness, with their innovative re-working of George A. Romero’s 1968 cult horror movie Night Of The Living Dead . This influential classic of the horror genre has been given a modern-day make-over, allowing the original film to be projected onto one screen above the stage while seven actors reproduce the action shot-by-shot onstage, with their version projected via live feed onto an adjoining screen. The result is an exhilarating spectacle.
Understandably, it does take a little time to adapt to the split focus, as there is so much to look at and take in, and the work being produced is so ambitious, you don’t want to miss a second of it. When your attention does wander from the screens to the stage, you realise the effort and precision that is going into this recreation. There is something mesmerising about watching the cast race around the stage, chaotically alternating between being actors to stage managers setting up props to camera operators. It should be utter bedlam but, to their credit, they’re barely a second or two behind the film version at most; the performers’ exactitude and energy throughout is outstanding. Their constant ducking and diving around cameras also provide some humorous moments for the audience. Being aware of just how demanding this project is for the actors, makes it all the more invigorating for the audience.
The slickness of the piece goes from strength to strength as we enter Act 2. The story-line (ultimately the humans in the house frantically trying to defend themselves against the lumbering zombies outside) becomes clearer with the merging of live and recorded interactions settling comfortably into its own rhythm. Directors’ Pete Brooks and Andrew Quick also make a bold decision to draw on the social context of the film’s era with frequent visual references to the assassinations of JFK. The ending feels particularly pertinent in highlighting the politics of race around America in the late 1960s, as the black central hero’s foot lies limply suspended from the staircase, whilst Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech is projected onto the surround screens.
The various designers (Laura Hopkins on set and costume, Simon Wainwright on projection and video design and Andrew Croft’s lighting design) all must be applauded on bringing this grand concept to life so well. In less capable hands, this could have been a disaster. However, through the combination of a simple set comprising of essentially a moving staircase, some chairs and a cupboard alongside a bunch of props and inventive camera work, this project is executed with aplomb. In conjunction with this, other parts of the house are hand-drawn and projected onto the cyclorama whilst Matthew Tully expertly operates an abundance of model zombies and cars to bring the other locations to life. The final icing on the already-impressive cake is James Hamilton’s hypnotic composition, which perfectly complements the Horror-B-Movie genre.
Night of the Living Dead (Remix) is a treat of a theatrical experience. Every moment of this unique production is unmissable and if you like something a little different from your evenings of theatre, then this is for you.
Reviewed on 28 Feb 2020