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Opening Night Of The Living Dead
Published on Thursday, 20 August 2009

Zombies take over a theatre during the opening night of Romeo and Juliet. So far, so high-concept - but this is a well-written, well-acted late night comic treat with some nicely gory zombie effects enhancing the neat storyline.

Real-life writer and director duo Joshua Dickinson and Miles Barden play Joe and Steve, tech guys operating the lights at the opening night performance of Romeo and Juliet - starring Mark David Armstrong (Lawrence) and Poppy Meadows (Lydia) in the title roles. The play-within-a-play is directed by David Asher's Hector (Hector the director). Joe pines for the attentions of Lydia from up in the tech box, but when a zombie plague starts to afflict members of the cast and crew, it becomes a race against time to save themselves, and save the show - which, after all, must go on.

The cast are uniformly excellent, although the show is very nearly stolen by Armstrong's prancing prima donna-like Lawrence. In character, he hams his performance to an extraordinary degree, leaping about and tossing his hair as if in a Loreal advert while enunciating like William Shatner on acid. The heart of the piece is in geeky Joe's awkward crush on aspiring actress Lydia, and they acquit themselves well in practising some of the Bard's most tender moments.

Barden and Asher offer good support, and spend the most time in zombie makeup, stumbling and groaning very satisfactorily. The zombie horde does a neat line in shocking the audience, so watch out if there's an empty seat beside you when the lights go out. Amusingly, even in undeath Lawrence is the most watchable zombie, especially in his bloody demise in the final scene.

There's is almost nothing to fault here: even the strange performance space at C cubed is utilised to their best advantage. I found the musical montages a little forced, but they got some good laughs from the audience with their exit-stage-left enter-stage-right mugging to The Automatic.

I found Opening Night of the Living Dead to be a nicely played bit of comic theatre which was both charming and blood-soaked. I guarantee this will make you laugh - and if it doesn't, well, I'll eat your brain.

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