Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment has produced 60 shows in six short years, and has built up a considerable reputation for bringing new musicals, such as Yank! From Manchester to London, as well as staging beloved revivals in London and on tour across the UK.  She had a successful collaboration with director Benji Sperring with a musical adaptation of the cult classic The Toxic Avenger, and now the pair bring another cult title to the stage with Night Of The Living Dead LIVE! at The Pleasance.

Katy explains “I’m very passionate about my work at Hope Mill, Southwark playhouse and UK Tours but I’m also passionate about how to make the fringe work on a commercial model, and I was talking to the Pleasance for quite a while.  I’m the kind of producer who finds a project for a space, this venue is very interesting it’s got a good seating capacity, and the potential to run for longer than 4 weeks.”

Marc Pickering Ashley Samuels Credit Claire Bilyard.
Marc Pickering Ashley Samuels Credit Claire Bilyard.

“My career has been dominated by musical revivals and new musicals, I had a gap in my calendar, which I had to fill because that’s just how I am, and I wanted to work with Benji again after The Toxic Avenger, so I was looking for a project for us.”  For Katy though, there’s another reason this stage adaptation of Night Of The Living Dead made sense, “being a zombie fan, and a horror film fan, and being interested in cult audiences, I was doing my research and it hit me, maybe there’s an audience beyond my musical theatre audience.”

With so much work in the pipeline, Katy doesn’t have time to waste, “We only really decided to do it in January, it was on sale by February, opened in April and we’ve just extended to June, making it a nine week run, which is very interesting for London in a private unsubsidised model.”

Katy explains that producing a play hasn’t turned out to be that much different from producing a musical, “It’s the same process really, but when you’ve done so many shows you build up a sort of powerhouse team around you, like Benji for example, and you realise how lucky you are.  You trust them, and you know what they can do, so having them makes it a lot easier.”

“It’s been strange not thinking about a getting a band in, and everything that goes with that, so it was like one less thing, but saying that, I’ve never had to deal with such specific make up requirements, or wigs, certainly not in a fringe production.”

Mike Bodie Marc Pickering Credit Claire Bilyard.
Mike Bodie Marc Pickering Credit Claire Bilyard.

As a fan of zombies and horror movies, Katy wanted to make sure this production was a loving homage to the original, “it’s got all the gory bits you would expect, but it makes light of itself and it’s very comedic, especially in the second half. Of course there’s violence, but it’s all done in a very slapstick way, and yes there are shock moments where people will jump out of their seats, and even an immersive seating area.”

That immersive area is known as the ‘Splatter Zone’, Katy laughs, “Well there’s blood, and people in the splatter zone seats are provided with overalls, you fill in the gaps! Ultimately it’s a fun comedy, you will laugh more than be scared, having said that there are scare moments because it wouldn’t be fair to do the most iconic horror movie on stage and not have moments of trepidation, but I always think with horrors you’re scared for the first ten minutes, then once you’ve had that first shock it’s not as scary anymore – being scared shouldn’t put you off coming at all.”

So, is Night Of The Living Dead LIVE! the start of a new direction for Aria Entertainment? “I think it’s opened my mind to do more plays in the future, I love plays and I love going to see them, although I am completely obsessed with all the new musicals that have opened in London. Aria will always be musical focussed, but when a script as amazing as Night Of The Living Dead comes along, you just can’t pass it up.”

Night Of The Living Dead LIVE! is at The Pleasance Theatre until 8th June 2019.

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Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly

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