Morven Macbeth stars in Night of the Living Dead ™ – Remix , the forthcoming imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse’s unique shot-for-shot stage recreation of George A. Romero’s politically charged 1968 horror film which will be having its world premiere at Leeds Playhouse ahead of a UK tour.
In their new stage production, masters of digital theatre, imitating the dog, create a love-song to the original 1960s film, a remaking and remixing which attempts to understand the past in order not to have to repeat it. Their version is in turns humorous, terrifying, thrilling, thought-provoking and joyous. Above all, in the retelling it becomes a searing parable for our own complex times.
You’re starring in Night of the Living Dead ™ – Remix, what can you tell us about it?
The film is a classic, thought of as the seminal zombie movie and it’s a great piece of storytelling. I’ve been working with imitating the dog for fifteen years now and our theatre shows have always been influenced by and have drawn upon cinema, the films that have shaped us as individuals and as a company.
Over recent years television has massively raised its game, for lots of reasons, and now the scope and quality of what we see on smaller screens has really broadened. The zombie genre has been a beneficiary of this and that kind of monster story, how it speaks to our collective psyche has always fascinated us.
We’re remixing the film in true imitating the dog (ITD) fashion in a theatre space, by attempting to remake the original movie, shot-for-shot in front of an audience and splicing into the mix some footage which speaks of the socio-political context in which the 1968 film was produced.
What do you like most about playing your character?
Helen Cooper has a very dry sense of humour. I like her a lot.
It’s a shot for shot recreation, what are the challenges in bringing that to the stage?
Night of the Living Dead is unusual in many ways for a film made on such a low budget. The Image Ten team who were behind making the original 1968 film were quite a crew, several of them were experienced editors and that certainly shows! There’s something that feels faintly ridiculous about the attempt to recreate a film, shot-for-shot, live in front of an audience and we’re really interested in the tension of that. But it’s also thrilling and exciting and very funny watching a bunch of performers try.
We’re going all out to remake the original movie as it plays on a projection screen alongside a second screen showing what we’re filming in the stage space. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride for an audience to watch us on the stage whilst simultaneously being able to see Romero’s film and the film that we’re making in real time right in front of you. For us actors it’s a matter of trying to be totally on it, remembering very precisely what’s coming next (often second-to-second as the film shot changes so quickly). It will be utter chaos at times and spot on at others, much like the original film in many ways but in a live space. And ultimately, we hope, very enjoyable for an audience!
Why do you think George A Romero’s film has remained so popular?
Put simply, because it’s an absolute classic. The film is often credited with creating the zombie genre (although the walking dead are referred to as ‘ghouls’ rather than zombies) which is still incredibly popular today. Think of TV hits The Walking Dead, Z Nation, iZombie, the list goes on. Monsters created a century ago or more still frighten us because the metaphor persists, what they represent still speaks to our base fears.
Making the show, we’ve been thinking of Night of the Living Dead as being about the end of the 1960s American dream. Released in 1968, the film is clearly haunted by the political turmoil of that time, the threat of nuclear war, the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam, the break-up of the family unit and challenges to what constitutes community and the notion of ‘family values’. There’s so much about the film that still resonates today, for better and for worse.
What are you most looking forward to about taking it out on tour?
As with any live performance, it’s all about getting a show out on the road in front of audiences. We’re revisiting some venues we’ve been to in the past and have been invited to some for the first time on this tour. The company had a great time in Liverpool on our most recent tour (Heart of Darkness) so I’m really happy we’re going back to Liverpool Playhouse and, as the only Scot in the company, I’m delighted we’ll be going to Dundee Rep for the first time. It’s such a great theatre so I’m looking forward to seeing what audiences make of the show there. As well as being a great story, the film has definite political resonance with the uncertain times we live in at the moment so I think it’s a show that will make for some good conversations.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Night of the Living Dead ™ – Remix?
We can guarantee it won’t be quite like anything you’ve seen in a theatre before and we can’t wait to hear what you think! Do come and talk to us in the bar after the show or drop us an email on the website. It will be thought provoking, funny, exciting and we hope it will be a night out at the theatre that will stay with you once the curtain has come down.
Night of the Living Dead: Remix will open at Leeds Playhouse from the 24 Jan-15 Feb and will then tour. For your dates please visit http://www.imitatingthedog.co.uk/night-of-the-living-dead-remix/
Main Image: Morven Macbeth © John Cooper