Anne Washburn’s excellent adaptation of the seminal show is more funny than scary
In her adaptation of ‘The Twilight Zone’, the iconic sci-fi horror anthology series, she remains true to the original stories by Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson while playfully acknowledging their inherent camp.
Actually, the stories themselves, to a modern audience fed on ‘American Horror Story’, ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Stranger Things’, feel a bit silly, like a boy scout’s idea of a campfire thrill. An alien joins a group of strangers waiting for a bus in a storm; a little girl falls into an alternate dimension; a pilot is blasted into a half-century return journey to the nearest solar system; a man dares not sleep for fear of getting so horny for a beautiful dream-woman that he’ll die of a heart attack.
They are told in disjointed piecemeal bursts over two acts, non-chronologically. Only two stories have any real emotional power; in one, loyalty and love are thwarted by good intentions; in another, a painfully pertinent conversation about race and identity expose the dark heart of a friendly neighbourhood.
But, for all its silliness, the stories in ‘The Twilight Zone’ are lavishly, hilariously presented. Illusion, trompe l’œil and trickery abounds, caked in deadpan humour. A black set, painted with stars, conjures numerous settings – atom bomb shelter, HQ of Nasa, psychiatrist’s office, backwater diner, child’s bedroom – by wheeling various elements of sets on and off (sometimes barely settling before being whisked into the mysterious depths). The famed white door of ‘The Twilight Zone’ appears in every scene, and original presenter Serling’s ubiquitous cigarette (he was said to smoke almost four packs a day) makes wickedly funny cameo appearances.
This West End transfer is a success – the Ambassadors’ petite stage perfectly conjures a black and white television screen blown up to theatrical proportions. The terror has long worn off these tales, but the chuckles just keep coming.
|Venue name:||Ambassadors Theatre|
|Transport:||Rail/Tube: Charing Cross; Tube: Leicester Square|
|Price:||£19.50-£80. Runs 2hr 30min|
Average User Rating
2.8 / 5
- 5 star:0
- 4 star:3
- 3 star:5
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:2
If you are old enough to remember the TV show then you'll love this fun, fast paced, crazy show. For context, it’s good to remember that the original show was aired in the early cold war years, communists invading, and spy's infiltrating everyday life was the mood of the day, America was gripped by a wave of paranoia and fear. The TZ seized upon this and while it stretched the realms of reality, it did tap into people’s paranoia like no other show. The production is very true to this, made up of 8 original episodes spliced together this riotous ride has some wonderful OTT acting and great 'jumpy' scenes. At times confusing, you must stick with it, all is explained in due course...well, as much as can be explained when it comes to the Twilight Zone...
I’ve never seen the TV programme so have no reference point for the in jokes & nods to the original shows. That said I still thoroughly enjoyed this show. It was kitsch, tongue in cheek & knowing. The cast were brilliant & parts were laugh out loud funny. There were some clever twists. Several stories were interspersed & threaded together. Some worked better than others. The monochromatic theme worked well & the sets & costumes were evocative of the era. Well worth catching
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...