The Twilight Zone, Almeida, review: ‘Crazy, boundary-breaking theatre’

PUBLISHED: 10:08 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:47 18 December 2017

The Twilight Zone. Cosmo Jarvis and Oliver Alvin-Wilson.  Picture: Marc Brenner

The Twilight Zone. Cosmo Jarvis and Oliver Alvin-Wilson. Picture: Marc Brenner

Archant

Richard Jones delivers a hypnotic production. It’s very much an ensemble effort as a cast of nine actors present storylines in the show’s trade-mark heightened style

The Twilight Zone The Twilight Zone

There’s good reason why CBS’ iconic 1959-64 series The Twilight Zone still pervades popular culture.

With its blend of genres - horror, gothic, detective, melodrama - and its contrasting contexts of everyday apple-pie America and the eerily futuristic, the themes struck a real chord when it first aired during the paranoia of the cold war. But anxieties about nuclear war, ecological catastrophe, and the failure of antibiotics persist, as does the issue of what constitutes national identity.

With his impressive opera-directing credentials, Richard Jones delivers a hypnotic production. It’s very much an ensemble effort as a cast of nine actors present storylines in the show’s trade-mark heightened style, here re-configured into aria-like, truncated scenes all deftly pulled together in adapter Anne Washburn’s clever script.

Die-hard fans of Rod Serling’s original show won’t be disappointed in the selection.

A group of marooned bus travellers taking refuge from a snowstorm in a diner can’t explain the sudden appearance of an extra passenger – is he an alien? A well-meaning teacher (Amy Griffiths) meets her childhood self (Adrianna Bertola plays multiple creepy child roles) and a disturbing back-story of extortion emerges. An insomniac (John Marquez) tells his psychiatrist (Oliver Alvin-Wilson) he’s taunted by a predatory cat-woman. In homage to Stranger Things, a fourth dimension swallows up a sleeping child. At times, reverence tips into indulgence and detail is overwhelming. Actors dressed in shadowy costumes whirl props conjuring the show’s swirly ident or favourite tropes: grotesque pig-masks, bandaged faces, the alien head from To Serve Man, cigarettes to suggest paranormal affiliation (a good running gag here). Transitions are dizzying as the storylines become entangled. The final narration could be trimmed. A standout scene combines the storyline from The Shelter with The Monsters are Due on Maple Street and shows how quickly a modern-day witch-hunt can result following the threat of alien invasion.

The stylish set by Paul Steinberg reflects the cat-woman’s significant refrain, ‘Never be afraid to dream. Dream everything you want to.’ Part parody, part a high art celebration of popular culture, it’s crazy, boundary-breaking theatre - an intoxicating ride.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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