Apologies if there is already a thread on this, but this sounds intriguing. It would be interesting to see what stories they will be adapting for this. There are no further details. All the Almeida website mentions is that the stories would be based on the ones written by Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. Could be anything! Any thoughts?
I saw this last night and can confidently say it is my favourite production directed by Richard Jones. Which perhaps isn't saying much since after seeing his 'Once in a Lifetime' at the Young Vic I vowed never to see anything else directed by him. But lured by my fondness for the original Twilight Zone series I took a punt on £10 tickets.
Anne Washburn's adaptation takes a bunch of different Twilight Zone stories, chops them up and interweaves them. Some are brought to a conclusion and some are left hanging. I think if you are familiar with the series you can sort of fill in the blanks in some instances, but I wonder, if you aren't if that would be particularly frustrating. The design (set by Paul Steinberg, costumes by Nicky Gillibrand) takes a playful retro approach (lots of black and white to mimic the original black and white television series; early 1960s American clothing) - including retro ideas about what the future/space travel might look like. Some low-tech effects are created by simply having cast members twirling mysterious Twilight Zone-type images (an eyeball; a sign saying e=mc2, a mysterious doorway....) All the performers are good, including John Marquez's funny Rod Serling (the show's host and one of its writers.) The fractured, episodic nature of the piece left us feeling that some of the ingredients were better than the final cake. There would be a brilliant interlude lasting five or ten minutes and then it would sink back into something less interesting/satisfying for a while. However I reckon they are on to something in reviving some of the Twilight Zone themes: the secrets/nastiness that lie beneath the apparently ordinary; how people behave selfishly in desperate situations; fear of strangers/the unknown; loneliness and mental health...
It came in at over 2 and a half hours last night, with one interval - I think it could be trimmed by ten minutes. I would (cautiously) recommend. (But remember I was one of the few who liked Mr Burns, by the same playwright.)
Foxa, I was there too - in the front row - how did I not see you?
Myself, I had no particular love for the old '60s series - I was there to see Lizzy Connolly and I was not disappointed on that score! I did know some of the episodes however. There are eight of them in the play, interwoven, as foxa says. I suppose there was no other way to do it - they couldn't be run as complete episodes back to back to back without the play being a very bumpy ride. But, again, as foxa says, it all ends up a very mixed bag because some stories are much better than others. In fact one wonders why some of the stories were chosen at all.
The exception to the pattern is an episode called The Shelter which takes up a good chunk of second act and is played straight through. It's a serious piece about human behaviour in a crisis - missile attack, who gets into the bomb shelter - that becomes a portrait of society particularly appropriate to our current situation both here and in America. It's wonderfully written - Rod Serling wrote the original but Anne Washburn has clearly intervened with new material - and played. For me it was easily the highlight of the evening.
I mentioned that The Shelter is "serious" - as all of the original episodes generally were - but much of this play is not. Director Richard Jones applies a "take" on the material which often seems just this side of parody. The black and white and grey sets and costumes are, I suppose, appropriate, since the stage is framed as a large TV set. But the actors all seem to be giving heightened performances - big reactions, knowing looks, melodramatic line readings - as if this represents yesterday's acting style. But that just isn't so. The acting in the series was usually quite excellent - the dramatic heightening was achieved through camera angles and editing choices. Jones's approach does not do justice to the series he wants to pay homage to.
John Marquez does a nice job playing Serling, handling the host's unique purple prosey intros and extros and moments of narration with style. But other actors get in on it too, stepping out of scenes to do their Serling impressions. And there's an ongoing cigarette gag that seems to have a purpose I could not detect - was Serling notorious for always having a cigarette in hand? Whatever...
The play didn't really work for me. It was too hit and miss, too unfocused, lacking in dramatic momentum, too at odds with its original material. But I would be remiss if I didn't note that it does have a rousing and quite unique ending that supplies some context to the evening and which, I think, contributed to its warm reception from the audience. So it does get some things right.
Has there ever been a Jones production where the actors didn’t give “heightened” performances ? It’s nothing to do with the material, it’s just what he does. Expressionistic I suppose you’d call it if you wanted to treat it seriously.
Smell it. Touch it. Kiss it. Kiss it! It's the mother lode...
I'm sorry I missed you Mallardo - my husband and I were back in the Row H pole seats.
I agree The Shelter was the highlight. And some of the fragments were intriguing, such as the mysterious little girl with the cocoa and the ventriloquist dummy scene. Besides The Shelter two of the other stories that were given a lot of time were the Astronaut story and the man who couldn't sleep (which provided an excuse for a song and some great nightmare stuff, but ultimately left me a bit, I dunno.) And there were some things I didn't understand (the party being shown on the TV screen.)
Serling not only smoked on camera he would advertise Chesterfield cigarettes - I think it was a bit in-jokey, but also establishes the period stuff: www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9njUk2EQwA
And Mallardo is right - the actors were usually top-notch on the Twilight Zone series. I wonder how the play would work if it was played with more realism and genuine eeriness.
Those end of the row seats are restricted view not because of an obstruction but because the stage is framed like a TV set, not open at the sides as normal in this theatre. The end seats are outside the frame with an angled view and thus will not see some of the action. Just how much will be missed I don't know.