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Night of the Living Dead Live! review at Pleasance Theatre, London – ‘schlocky but saggy staging’

Jennifer Harding, Tama Phethean, Marc Pickering and Ashley Samuels in Night of the Living Dead Live at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Claire Bilyard
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Probably best not to wear your finery at Night of the Living Dead Live!. This US stage adaptation of George A Romero’s hugely influential 1968 horror film involves copious amounts of zombie brain being flung over the first few rows. Benji Sperring’s staging, the UK premiere, even includes a splatter zone – a dozen or so seats, placed in the middle of the stage – for intrepid audience members only.

The first half is a fairly faithful recreation of the film, sure to please die-hard fans – a group of strangers hole up in a country house to escape from a ravenous zombie hoard. It features all of the famous lines, and plenty of the famous sequences.

The second half takes a lot of liberties. It plays out a series of woke-ish what-if scenarios. What would happen if the women were in charge? What if the main character was white, not black? What if we all just got along? It is, in truth, more fun than the faithful first half, descending deliriously into farce and song.

Sperring – the director behind 2016’s The Toxic Avenger musical – makes some serious mis-steps, though. The whole thing is staged in monochrome in a homage that actually makes things difficult to distinguish, and the splatter-zone seats are a real eyesore from the stalls.

But the cast is game, particularly Marc Pickering’s Harry, and although it could all be a lot sharper and a lot slicker, it’s still difficult not to get swept up in all the silliness.

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Schlocky but saggy stage adaptation of George A Romero’s classic horror film