Night of the Living Dead - Review

‘The awkward moment when you find yourself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse without an iPhone charger...’

‘The awkward moment when you find yourself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse without an iPhone charger...’

At times both laugh-out-loud funny, and grippingly tense, Devious Theatre’s latest production is a modern re-imagining of the classic George A. Romero film, ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Written by John Morton and Connie Walsh, directed by John Morton, and produced by Ken McGuire, the action has been relocated from rural Pennsylvania in 1968, to a ghost estate in the south-east of Ireland in 2012.

It tells the story of a group of strangers who seek refuge from the zombie apocalypse in an abandoned house. Tensions begin to rise in their already uneasy alliances as they find themselves trapped, with hordes of the undead surrounding the house.

The relocation works brilliantly. Romero’s Living Dead films have always examined and satirised the social, political, and economic landscapes of the times they were produced in. The fall of the Irish economy and the subsequent strain it has placed on people is here examined as those from different backgrounds form uneasy alliances in the face of adversity. A wide cross-section of Irish society is represented as the cast of characters include students, a laborer, a banker, a teacher, and a group of travelers.

Radio news pieces reporting the devastation caused by the zombie virus are played before the opening curtain, building an atmosphere of dread. One particularly clever up-date to the story is the way in which the characters learn about what is occurring around the country via Twitter, rather than by TV or radio. Social media communication is a big part of the play both inside and outside the story. The audience are invited to tweet with the hashtag #livingdead, with the chance of their tweets being used in the show. The dark and moody electro soundtrack provided by Kilkenny act REPLETE, also helps to build the tension.

The large cast include Angela Barrett, Philip Brennan, Darragh Byrne, Alex Christie, Anne Cody, Alan Doyle, Hazel Doyle, Michael Hayes, Adrian Kavanagh, John Kennedy, Kevin Mooney, Niamh Moroney, Aoibhin Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Maria Murray, Colin O’Brien, Nuala Roche, Connie Walsh, David Thompson, and Paul Young, with all involved providing captivating performances. All the characters are very distinct and well-rounded while also acting as caricatures of various groups in Irish society. Most of the characters retain their names and basic archetypes from the 1968 original, but with some original and welcome variations (this versions Barbara has a far more active and less hysterical part to play). Stand-out characters include party-girl Judy, awkward geek Frankie, the McClellan brothers, and everyman reluctant hero, Ben. The dialogue is quick, snappy, and littered with jokes and pop culture references, yet still very natural. The make-up and special effects are clever, and effectively gruesome.

The Devious Theatre Company have crafted a hilarious, violent, tense, and fun slice of stage horror, filled with memorable characters and quotable dialogue, cementing themselves as Tarantinos of the Irish theatre scene.