Review: Night of the Living Dead- Remix
Written by ExTS Reviewer, Pippa Meaker
Night of The Living Dead™ – Remix - imitating the dog & Leeds Playhouse – 25 February 2020 - Exeter Northcott Theatre
Age – 15+. All performances will be captioned. Running time – 2 hours (including interval).
The problem with being an ‘innovative’ company is that the audience doesn’t really know what to expect. This was sadly reflected in the amount of people who attended tonight’s performance, though, to my surprise, most of the demographic was represented. I had wondered if it would be myself and an auditorium of stereotypical horror flick nerds but no, we were a mixed bag if not a full one. Well all I can say is that those who decided against coming to this performance missed out on a treat.
Laura Hopkins’ set is pale and sparse. A set of stairs, a few items of furniture and two large screens hanging above. The left screen displays George A. Romero’s 1968 film, the right the Remix version, with the stage below acting as a film set in real time. The audience’s initial reaction is that of laughter as the opening shot of Johnny and Barbara’s approach to the cemetery is recreated rather clumsily using a toy car. This is a deliberate play for laughs however as it becomes apparent that this is going to be far more than just a hammy pastiche. Two handheld cameras, one tripoded camera and a static camera for the ‘outside’ shots are all employed with skill and dexterity to capture the actors (and toys) in shots often scarily close to the movie playing alongside. The thin slats of plastic that comprise the walls of the set allow the actors to easily move on and off stage. Simon Wainwright and Andrew Croft’s hand-drawn projections and lighting skills assist in changing scenes and should receive due praise.
The choreography and timing I cannot praise highly enough. Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, as directors, must have enormous dedication and patience as I cannot imagine even the most versatile of actors finding this an easy task. There was ducking and diving around the stage to a ridiculous extent and the potential for a wrong step was immense. It is a credit to all involved that the performance didn’t feel overly chaotic. Having two actors playing the same character on stage to allow for the different takes and angles was both ingenious and exhausting (though in a good way). I did feel I could have benefitted from several extra pairs of eyes to fully appreciate the sheer scale of the recreation. On at least two occasions whilst concentrating on one of the screens audience laughter alerted me to the fact that I had missed something comic elsewhere on set.
The radio and TV broadcasts of the film are interspersed with clips of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and the Vietnam war. The blending is done well but does add another level of required concentration. James Hamilton’s music helps in keeping the dynamic of the show going and stops it feeling like a history lesson but it is obvious that the company wants more of its audience than to sit and be scared. Though Romero himself denied that the casting of a black male (Duane Jones) as the hero, Ben, was a political statement, it nevertheless challenged the status quo in 1968. Whilst most of accompanying clips are contemporaneous with the original film their message is still relevant today. On a different theme, I also noticed that the male TV broadcasters of the Romero film were replaced by female cast members possibly as a reaction to Romero’s female characters who are rather bland, one-dimensional and pathetic.
Night of the Living Dead™ –Remix is much more than a shot-for-shot recreation of a zombie movie and I would encourage anyone, horror flick nerd or not, to give it a try. I challenge the most cynical of beings not to be impressed by at least one element of the performance and there are plenty of laughs to be had too. And if you leave the theatre pondering on the other issues raised, even better.
Night of the Living Dead™ – Remix is at Exeter Northcott Theatre until the 26th February. It will then tour to Nottingham Playhouse, Dundee Repertory Theatre and HOME, Manchester with further dates to be announced soon.
Tickets are £14-18.50 with various discounts available. Book online for the Exeter Northcott using the below link.
This show is included in Exeter Northcott’s ‘Ones to Watch’ selection. The shows included are exciting, ground-breaking and feature stellar up-and-coming and established performers and theatre companies and savings can be made when booking more than one show. Click on the below link to find out more.