Review – Night of the Living Dead: Remix – Liverpool Playhouse

Image: Edward Waring
Review by Nigel Smith

IMITATING the Dog have a very distinctive multimedia approach to storytelling and, in their ‘Remix’ of Night of the Living Dead, they have taken this to another level of ingenious visual trickery.
The stage is a white box, almost bare except for a staircase and a table of props. Above hang two projection screens and to one side, almost in the wings, we see a technician at another table of miniature scenes, cameras and equipment. On one of the screens George A Romero’s original 1968 film begins to play.

Over the next two hours, the actors onstage play out the entire movie, in a scene by scene remake, with the results of their efforts shown on the second screen, enabling us to see the meticulous detail in the recreation. The actors themselves operate the cameras, in between donning various costumes to play all the parts. At times, there are two performers in the same role, enabling cameras to intercut between different angles of a scene.

On revisiting the original picture earlier in the day (in a spirit of heroic research) I was reminded that it begins feeling somewhat comedic and shoddily put together, but slowly creeps into genuine suspense and horror. This inventive staging achieves a similar sense of Blue Peterish shoeboxes and sticky tape in its opening scenes, as a car is seen making its way to the cemetery. The players use a tiny model car on the end of a stick, filming it in miniature set models with handheld cameras. This really does raise a few laughs, lulling us into the place we need to be for the tension to build from. Sketched backgrounds emerge and evaporate, projected onto the walls, providing the environment for the action.

Followers of the now cult-status film point to its undertones of social and political commentary. Directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks allude to this by the insertion of some segments of historical film footage from the time, referencing Vietnam and Martin Luther King. These appear sometimes on the second screen, in place of images of the ghoulish scenes being played out onstage, and at others on the walls of the set.

It is very clever stuff, and hugely entertaining to watch, but it’s hard to say whether it entirely succeeds in delivering its message. There are so many directions in which to look that it’s almost impossible to take it all in, and inevitably there will be much of it that will be missed. Repeated viewing would be the only way to see all of the intricacies of the feat.

And that is, effectively, what this is – an enormous and daring feat of theatrical cleverness.
In a way the tail is wagging the dog, with the doing of it being the thing that makes the greatest impression.

Nonetheless, whether you focus on one aspect of it or just let your eyes wander about the stage, there is no denying the fact that the cast pull off a heck of a stunt. It’s a fascinating piece of work and one that probably merits a second visit.
Star Rating: Three Stars