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Night of the Living Dead Live!

Pleasance Theatre

Night of the Living Dead Live

Night of the Living Dead Live!

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 16th April 2019



“full of unique and inventive ideas that create an air of originality to the play”


Based on George A. Romero’s classic 1968 movie of the same name, Night of the Living Dead Live! translates the horror story to the stage. This comedic adaptation is stylish and performed brilliantly with some exciting theatrical twists, however it doesn’t quite live up to its horror-comedy expectation.

The show opens with the murder of Ben (Ashley Samuels), who has been hiding in a house from ghouls, which are essentially zombies. Discovered by the Chief (Mike Bodie) and his sidekick Vince (Tama Phethean), the story then rewinds as we watch how the whole thing unfolded. An eclectic mix of characters assemble, including a squabbling couple, a soppy, loved up couple, and the seemingly vacant Barbara (Mari McGinlay). The first act follows the characters bicker and fight in their attempts at survival, and the second act then diverts from the original film narrative in its exploration of alternate endings; what if the leader of the group was a white, all-American man, or what if the leader was a woman? The show plays out every possibility to test which is the best method to survive the night of the living dead.

The production is full of unique and inventive ideas that create an air of originality to the play. Firstly, a section of the audience is seated on stage, dressed in boiler suits and shower caps, literally seated in the middle of the drama. These members of the audience are invisible to the characters on stage, but they are not safe from the blood splatters and violence that plays out before them; the seating area is quite literally called the ‘splatter zone’. To my relief, I wasn’t seated on stage, but I enjoyed watching those who were – their amusement and horror at being covered in blood became a comedic element in itself.

Secondly, the design of the production (Diego Pitarch) was stylish as it attempted to replicate the black and white aesthetic of the movie. The actors were all painted and dressed monochromatically, as was the entire set, and this was really effective in creating the old movie tone that laced the script and performance in general. This tone was heightened in the use of music; tense country music introduced the scenes (soundscape and compositions Samuel West) alongside dramatic, horror movie sounds (sound design James Nicholson and Paul Gavin) that kept all the audience on the edge of their seats – I heard people gasp and felt them jump when these sound effects were played. The production understood the importance of sound in creating tension and exploited it to its full advantage.

Similarly, performances were strong all round, and every actor managed to intentionally embody that awkward style of the stilted, old-Hollywood performers. Jennifer Harding was a real stand-out, playing two very contrasting characters with absolute conviction and perfect comedy- both the characters of Helen and Judy became a joy to watch. Benji Sperring’s direction was neat and flowed nicely, and he certainly lived up to his ambition of wanting to make theatre fun.

That said, there were moments in the drama that lacked significant tension that the design and performances couldn’t disguise. The play started off with a lot of promise but it took too long to progress the narrative. The mix of horror and comedy felt natural to the piece, but the first act slowed in certain places and while the second act redeemed it, picking up the pace, the repetitive structure seemed to stunt its potential rather than push it further. While some jokes sparked, other felt laboured and I felt restless rewatching certain pieces of dialogue over and over. Despite that, the stakes were definitely raised in the second act, and they became higher and higher culminating in a fun and bizarre conclusion that definitely ends the show on the high.

Having not seen the original film, I was worried that some references would go right over my head, and perhaps that’s why I struggled to connect the whole time. I could tell some people responded well to the play and I have no doubt that those on stage had a really fun evening out because it does provide a unique theatrical experience. However, sat in the stalls I sometimes felt like there was a private joke I was missing out on. I’m sure fans of the film will have a great time, but despite its style and energy, I have to admit I was left a little confused and alienated by the whole thing.


Reviewed by Tobias Graham

Photography by Claire Bilyard


Night of the Living Dead Live!

Pleasance Theatre until 19th May


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Moonfleece | ★★★ | March 2018
Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy | ★★★★ | April 2018
Dames | ★★★½ | April 2018
Spiked | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Gym Thing | ★★★★ | May 2018
Bingo | ★★★ | June 2018
Aid Memoir | ★★★ | October 2018
One Duck Down | ★★★★★ | October 2018
The Archive of Educated Hearts | ★★★★ | October 2018
Call Me Vicky | ★★★ | February 2019


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Peter Pan

Park Theatre

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 11th December 2018


“This production is funny and touching, with a delightful simplicity”


This is a charming production, based on JM Barrie’s original text, and occasionally updated with contemporary references. Peter Pan is a story that many of us have grown up with. We wait for Captain Hook’s villainy, clap to save Tinkerbell, and look on in wonder as Peter flies. This production manages to create the atmosphere of those childhood encounters with the story, without the full on nature of pantomime, or the facilities of a large West End theatre.

Several of the cast play multiple roles. Alfie Webster plays two pirates and a dog, and Harveen Mann successfully managing to convince with her five characters! We are aware that it’s the same actor, and that’s part of the joke, particularly when she transforms from Jukes to Cecco. There are plenty of laughs to be had and some outstanding performances, particularly from Nickcolia King-N’Da as Peter Pan and Alexander Vlahos as Hook. King N’Da’s Peter is an innocent, cocky and immensely likeable boy. It’s a lovely moment when he first flies in, peddling through the air with a huge grin. He is a kid we could meet on the streets of Finsbury Park, ballsy, joyful, vulnerable and stubborn, but with added magic. His encounters with Hook are nicely done, and Hook’s use of a leaf blower as a weapon is inspired. Vlahos is a different kind of Hook. He is full of himself, overconfident, and hilariously terrified of the crocodile. He struts and preens with more than a little camp thrown in, ably and enthusiastically aided by Smee, played by Natalie Grady, who also plays Mrs Darling.

The two Darling boys are convincing as kids, Adam Buchanan plays Michael as a very believable little boy with a giant teddy, and Jason Kajdi is John, his older brother. Rosemary Boyle plays Wendy, and beautifully portrays the difficulties of a young girl becoming a woman. She is attracted to Peter, very much wanting a kiss. Wanting him to be her ‘husband’ rather than her ‘son.’ But, of course, he doesn’t get it. She finds it hard to be a mother to the lost boys too. I’ve never understood Wendy so well before, and it adds another level to the emotional strata of the story.

This production is funny and touching, with a delightful simplicity. In a space such as the Park Two Hundred it is good to see such a well designed and flexible set. Gregor Donnelly has done a great job with it, allowing the cast to easily transform the space from the Darling’s home to Neverland, to a pirate ship and back. When the sound and lighting, by Adrienne Quartly and Nic Farman are added, the stage is set for magic to happen. The only thing that I didn’t like was the puppet of Nana, the dog. In contrast to the naturalistic, yet fantastical feeing of the rest of the production, Nana looked like an autumnal sea monster that, despite Alfie Webster’s able puppetry, failed to convince. Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction is assured, and he has enabled his actors to shine and enjoy themselves hugely in this lovely show.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Chris Gardner


Peter Pan

Park Theatre until 5th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Building the Wall | ★★★★ | May 2018
End of the Pier | ★★★★ | July 2018
The Rise & Fall of Little Voice | ★★★★ | August 2018
Distance | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Other Place | ★★★ | September 2018
And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dangerous Giant Animals | ★★★ | October 2018
Honour | ★★★ | October 2018
A Pupil | ★★★★ | November 2018
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018


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