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Live / stage review

"A good blend of horror and comedy": Night of the Living Dead

Paul Szabo watched Night of the Living Dead from The Company and describes both the charm and absurdity of the performance. 

Two people sit on a black leather sofa.

Night of the Living Dead, The Company

Mark Todd

I absolutely love spooky season, as the run-up to Halloween is affectionately called in my household, and so on a cold autumn evening with Storm Agnes whipping the fallen leaves into a frenzy and a large moon barely covering itself with wispy white cloud, I eagerly ventured to The Sheffield University Drama Studio to see The Company’s production of Night of the Living Dead.

The play is loosely based on the 1968 George A. Romero film of the same name, taking its cues from the basic storyline of a group of survivors holed up in a house throughout the night as they are relentlessly attacked by the undead. The original film was a biting satire that critiqued 1960s American society, international Cold War politics, and domestic racism; and whilst the first act of the play broadly reflected the story of its cinematic counterpart, the second act upended the narrative and replaced it with multiple alternative endings that could have occurred, had a particular set of different circumstances prevailed.

A person wearing a black and white dress has her mouth open against a black background.

Night of the Living Dead, The Company

Mark Todd

As a great admirer of the original film, I did enjoy the first act; but it was the second act where the show came into its own, spiralling into increasingly comedic outcomes of the different “what if” scenarios that were presented, garnering some genuine belly laughs from the crowd as a result of the ridiculousness of it all. The show culminated in a truly odd, but somehow rather endearing, musical denouement.

The Company is a collective of local creatives who strive to bring innovative theatre to Sheffield. For a non-professional production, the cast were broadly competent, with Mark Kenny standing out with his portrayal of the stereotypical small-town sheriff, alongside Lizzie Davis as Judy, who had great comic timing and a penchant for histrionics when her character called for it.

The set and costume designs were carefully chosen. The stage was sparsely furnished in black, white and greys, and the costumes of all the cast mirrored the colour scheme - a clever nod to the original source of the black and white film, and also, no doubt, a sly dig at the racial tensions of 1969 America. The production pleasingly boasted a diverse cast and some gender-neutral casting, and there was a competent sound and lighting design rounding off the production values.

Whilst the performances and production were, at times, a little rough around the edges, it just added to the charm of the production and actually fitted in really well with the increasingly absurd situations that were unfolding during the second act. Whilst the overall joke does begin to outstay its welcome towards the end, it still provided more than enough comedy to entertain the crowd.

It was clear that a lot of thought, hard work and dedication had been put into the production by the entire cast and crew, creating a show that was a good blend of horror and comedy and delivering an evening where the production itself was a credit to the hours of creativity that The Company had dedicated to it.

Learn more

Details of The Company can be found on their website. Their next production is Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which will be performed from the 28 February - 2 March 2024.

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