Night Of The Living Dead Production Team

Zombie fiction is not about the horror of the ghouls, the deformed monsters, the shuffling undead but instead about the horror they reveal within all of us. The anxiety that the true monsters are the people beside you, the people you think you can trust, is what runs through Geroge A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic Night of The Living Dead. The story follows a group of strangers hiding out in a house in the middle of nowhere with zombies desperately banging on their doors. This existential threat turns up the heat, exposing the nature of each character. It is a story of infighting, fear and violence.

The first problem anyone must overcome, when adapting a film to the stage, is how to tell the story without the power of editing. Film, unlike theatre, has the power to change locations, scenes and characters in the blink of an eye. Something relatively elementary in a film, showing a character running from a cemetery to a house, for example, is made very difficult on stage. Due to the limitation of space within a theatre, you can’t show a character in continuous movement for very long, you must devise creative solutions to justify the adaptation. This is the first stumbling point of The Night of The Living Dead at The Corpus Playhouse.

“Bringing the television report ... into the action was an excellent creative decision”

The show is over-reliant on blackouts. Although this may not have been the intention, possibly a first-night technical issue, it left the play feeling awkward and disjointed. The blackouts appeared to be an attempt to mirror the transactions of the film but far from being quick and sharp, they were slow and clumsy. These transitions undercut scenes that could have been poignant and affecting. There were some strong performances, Charlie Scott-Haynes and Adam Keenan, in particular, were exceptional. Scott-Haynes’s screams were chilling and, early in the play, expressed the gravity of the group’s plight. I only wish they utilised her talents more but understand the necessity of sacrifice in an ensemble piece. Keenan commanded the stage in a similar but opposite way to Scott-Haynes. With a larger role, he had more to work with and provided the most complex performance. My eyes were drawn to them, enwrapped by Keenan’s portrayal of fragile masculinity and Scott-Haynes’s intense vulnerability. But, when the lights turned off and the scene transitioned you were reminded forcefully that this was a play.


Mountain View

From Score to Stage: collision of music and theatre in Ghost Quartet

The Corpus Playhouse was a good choice of venue for the Night of the Living Dead. Its claustrophobic atmosphere replicates Romero’s close, intimate camera work. Sitting in the front row you feel part of the play and, when you hear a malevolent fist banging on the door, you feel the horror the play is attempting to inspire. There is, however, tonal dissonance within the play between the horror of the house and the comedy of the tv reports. At first, when the TV crew and officer McLellan (Isaac Allen) come onto the stage to enact the report our characters are watching I was impressed. Bringing the television report, a static feature in the original film, into the action was an excellent creative decision. It added dynamism to the stage and utilized the aspects of theatre to do something that would be impossible on film. The only issue with this writing and directorial choice is that it shattered the tension that had been building in the house.

This moment occurred as the tension was at a fever pitch in the house, everything felt like it was one action away from a bloodbath, it was the moment in the play that I felt was most powerful and it was deflated by the comedy of the news report. This unfortunate tendency to undercut horror and tension with comedy continues until the last moment of the play.

All of this being said, I would still recommend Night of The Living Dead as a true slice of B movie, pulp horror this Halloween. With a few strong performances, superb technical work and a compelling plot, it is bound to entertain. It left me with the question, who are the living dead? Are they the zombies or the people we know are bound to die and yet are acting out their last hour of life before our eyes?