Sunday, 19 April 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Night Of The Living Dead Remix: Live - online stream via Vimeo

When I offered myself up to review Imitating The Dog’s new production of Night Of The Living Dead - Remix (LVD) it occured to me that I hadn’t even seen the original movie. I know, where have I been living? In a cellar? I am a cultural hermit sometimes, so I curled up into bed and watched the 1968 cult zombie action horror classic. George Romero created, wrote and directed this game-changer in the genre of and heavily influenced by comic book writer Robert Kirkman, and filmmakers John Carpenter and Jack Thomas Smith to name a few.

Seven strangers are trapped in a rural farmhouse in Pennsylvania in an attempt to survive the night escaping from flesh-eating zombies. Great! During the '60s it was seen as controversial to have a black actor playing the protagonist in the film. The lead, Ben, is played beautifully by Duane Jones. He was an unknown actor at the time making his debut to which his choices were to play Ben cool, calm and collected. This is what distinguished him from all the other actors, and we see the same calmness portrayed by Morgan Bailey. Jones went on to become a cult horror film actor for the rest of his career.

Imitating The Dog recreates this cult classic, shot-by-shot, using hand-held cameras, tripods and whatever they can lay their hands on’. Two screens are positioned above the stage, one showing the original film and the other screening the action from the stage.

The stage looks cold with all the screens and set in black and white and a low lit stage, but it is a privilege to see the mechanics of theatre exposed with the performers rushing around the stage moving the set, coming on and off the stage, swapping props and camera, and setting up for the next shot. Anticipating mistakes, it was superbly satisfyingly seamless, and performed with such rigor I was in awe of it. The verbatim speech was a particularly impressive synchronisation.

Keeping in the same theme of Night Of The Living Dead, Imitating The Dog kept to most of the original score, and to Romero’s style of including cultural and societal commentary by including cutaways of footage of the Vietnam War and the assisination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, and the final moments of this stage adaptation is intensified with the action of the Guard.

The "liveness" of the show doesn’t disappear through this digital reincarnation. You’d think recreating a horror movie from the '60s would be a hilarious parody, but not even a hiccup of laughter from me. Their extensive creative team and crew covered all aspects to recreate the perfect shot from foley to costume; it was a creative and playful portrayal for audiences to appreciate the amount of work gone into creating it.

Imitating The Dog has been making work in live and digital formats for over 20 years. It is a particularly inspiring time to see how digital technology, and cross-arts forms, are being perceived by audiences and theatre-makers during this time, subtly interweaving productions, forms and styles. The ‘digital’ aspect doesn’t dominate the production, and in a time where people cannot get to experience theatre live, Imitating The Dog finds a way of luring you into their imaginative and playful portal of storytelling; hooking you in with every shot. Mishaps included!

Reviewer - Susanna Amato
on - 17/4/20

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