It’s one of the most iconic films ever made. It set the template for the entire zombie genre and it has remained a fiercely relevant work of social commentary and now, George A Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead is coming to the London stage in its only Romero estate-approved production this month with Night Of The Living Dead Live. Described as skirting “the line between the horrific and the hysterical”, it’s more than just a straight adaptation and we’ve been told to expect some surprises thanks to new material, not to mention plenty of blood and guts (don’t worry, there are splatter-free zones if you’re worried about getting red on you).
We talked to producer Katy Lipson about bringing a masterpiece of horror cinema to a new medium, zombies and what audiences are in for…
How did this all come about?
As a producer I always work on a volume of properties and at various stages of development. I am known for producing a lot of premieres and my taste is extremely eclectic. I was browsing the Samuel French website and this popped up! I couldn’t believe what I saw and was immediately intrigued. I am a huge fan of the horror and zombie genres so this was a perfect opportunity to explore this on stage. I ordered a script and sent it to Benji Sperring our Director and that was that! We had a theatre and an image and the rest is history.
What was it about Night Of The Living Dead that made it a good fit for a stage adaptation? I can imagine the claustrophobia lends itself very well to this medium!
I loved the treatment of the film as a play. It was full of all those iconic lines but also added new, creative elements to make it relevant for the stage but also for a modern audience. I wanted to work with the perfect Director and Designer to make this genre live on stage. As I had worked with [designer] Diego Pitarch on The Addams Family and Benji on The Toxic Avenger it was easy for me to build the team. The show is all set in monochrome so we have had fun playing with that!
Were there any particular challenges in translating such a well-known film to a new medium?
First of all you have to trust the writers and the material; the people who have done the adaption. Knowing George was part of this process is very rewarding and therefore we know the piece has had his blessing. However, we have to honour the text and the genre. This show is different for me as I don’t often do plays; even though this is very much a play with elements of cinematic underscoring and maybe one song or two it certainly isn’t a musical!
It must be fun to get to recreate moments like “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”!
Indeed, it is! Maybe you will get some merchandise with that line on too!
How did you find the process of casting? There are some iconic roles in there!
We always work with the amazing Jane Deitch. She had 6000 submissions, can you believe it! And seeing people doing their very own zombie impressions was fun. This play is not like the movie though due to the fact we have just a cast of 6 doubling and playing everything so the requirements and versatility of the actor is very important. This is what we had to test!
The political and social commentary is obviously a huge part of the film, is it also key in this adaptation?
You will see that Act 2 has a very interesting twist on this… this is what makes it interesting for today and our audiences. There are many ‘what if’ scenarios without giving away too many spoilers.
Can you tell us anything about the new material or is that all under wraps?
I think you have to come and see it! Just imagine everything was turned on its head… what would happen and what could have happened if….
What would you say that audiences can expect from the show?
First of all, a GREAT night out! Second of all a thrilling, fun, engaging experience with the highest production values! Fans of the film will love this adaption and audiences who want to see something different should get themselves down to THE PLEASANCE from April 9th!
Finally, what’s your favourite non-NOTLD zombie film?
28 Days Later!
Night of the Living Dead Live runs at Pleasance, London from 9 April to 19 May 2019
Tickets available at www.LivingDeadLondon.com