first night

Night of the Living Dead

Donnchadh O'Connail Part II: an unhinged production of a zombie apocalypse...

 LUCIEN: Rather than popping into Castle for Venus and Adonis, I hiked up to Collingwood to catch their live-action Night of the Living Dead.

 

WIGGINS: The George A. Romero zombie classic, sir?

 

LUCIEN: Indubitably! Adapted and directed by a chap called Cole Sims. Clearly as mad as a ferret that thinks he’s a goldfish, but all the better for it, I say. Where lesser or saner men would quail at the thought of driving cars through crowds of the undead, flinging burning torches and prosthetic limbs about, and having the protagonist lay about him with what looked and sounded like a length of rubber piping, Mr. Sims rushed in, pyrotechnics at the ready. For those of us wishing to see onstage explosions or hear a newsreader gravely inform us that “These beings are highly flammable”, there was only one show in Durham.

 

WIGGINS: It sounds most unorthodox, sir...

 

LUCIEN: At its best, gloriously so. Particularly the zombies. Covered in disgusting makeup, saying nothing, shuffling aimlessly...

 

WIGGINS: I shall refrain from drawing comparisons with North Road on a Saturday night...

 

LUCIEN: You may jest, but it took impressive concentration. Some of them must have spent an hour just lurking about in the background. Staggering.

 

WIGGINS: I thought you said they shuffled?

 

LUCIEN: I think I will have that drink after all, Wiggins. Run along and fetch it like a good chap.

 

WIGGINS: Indeed, sir. (decants a single malt)

LUCIEN: Not that all the effects were special, mind. The gunshots sounded like someone bouncing pips off a microphone. I must say, I was also dismayed to see a zombie stagger over to a flaming torch and extinguish it with a bucket of water – just when we had the possibility of actual on-stage injury...

 

WIGGINS: It appears that the only power with less remorse than the living dead is Health & Safety. And what of the traditional virtues of stagecraft, direction, and a well-paced script?

 

LUCIEN: Present in varying degrees, since you ask. Mr. Sims’ faithfulness to the original sometimes seemed to get the better of him. When not actually being menaced by the undead, the characters tended to shout at each other at rather excessive length. The cast gave it everything they had to hand, but sometimes that wasn’t quite enough. Take Henry Morris – terrific conviction, but I felt he had too little nuance. A good man to thwack a zombie, but not as effective giving comfort to others. Livvy Peden had the unenviable task of sitting shivering listening to Morris and this other chap, Phil Manley, engage in a particularly tedious debate over whether they should hide in a house or a cellar. Not that I blame the actors, mind – it’s just that sometimes one couldn’t help but wish the zombies would hurry up and devour the lot of them.

 

WIGGINS: Some might regard that as biting criticism, sir.

 

LUCIEN: But I particularly liked the set. You had doors set up hither and thither, suggesting a house but without any walls. Easier to see the undead menace in the background, that way. And I very much like the way the zombies would appear from the far side of the turning circle...

 

WIGGINS: ...thus creating an unnerving sense of distance which would be all but impossible in a more conventional setting?

 

LUCIEN: Something like that, yes.

 

(WIGGINS exits, leaving LUCIEN looking both pensive and vacant.)

22 June 2011

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