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Night of the Living Dead review – Pleasance Theatre

The spirit of George A Romero’s 1968 cult horror film is alive in more ways than one in this splatterific stage version.

First off, there are no zombies. It’s “ghouls” or “the undead” – keeping things true to Romero’s original vision.

But what’s really impressive about this show is the astonishing monochrome set and costume design by Diego Pitarch.

It’s like you’re watching a black and white film. Inspired.

Most of the story takes place inside a dimly-lit abandoned farmhouse, complete with a rickety staircase, a boarded-up window (“Don’t stand in front of the window!”) and double doors which offer frequent glimpses of hungry cadavers outside

The show’s USP is to seat 20 members of the audience – in boiler suits and shower caps – in a “splatter zone” centre stage. It may be fun to be up there, but from the auditorium I found it a distraction. It often obscured what was going on.

There are jump-scares aplenty (big applause for the sound and light design), but don’t expect this to give you nightmares. As director Benji Sperring points out in his programme notes, this is a cultural rarity: a comedy horror.

The tongue is firmly in cheek. Or rather, poking through the cheek.

Photo: Claire Bilyard

Sperring works his excellent six-strong cast hard to squeeze out as many laughs as possible.

I particularly liked Marc Pickering as Harry, with his comedic strut, and Jennifer Harding in the dual roles of Helen and Judy.

The second act’s insistence on exploring multiple alternative endings wears a bit thin, but the big musical finale – when the red stuff really starts to fly – more than makes up for it.

George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead LIVE! is at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, until 8 June.