I must begin this review with a confession – before I went to see this show, I had never seen an episode of The Twilight Zone (I have since remedied this). However, growing up with American parents (albeit in Germany), it was very much part of my cultural heritage. It is a bizarre sort of nostalgia that fills you when you experience something that feels familiar yet is not, that reminds you of so much of something you do not know, and yet I felt nostalgic watching this play.
Adapting, fragmenting and intertwining several episodes from the hit CBS television series, writer Anne Washburn creates something that is eclectic homage, loving pastiche and mesmerising fantasy. Directed excellently by Olivier Award-winning Richard Jones, the play’s many narratives, which deal with everything from mental health to the threat of nuclear war, are just as relevant now as they were in the 1960s. The retro sci-fi feel of the production will appeal to today’s Stranger Things-watching youngsters as much as to their grandparents.
The production’s design successfully evokes the black and white television series the play is based on, with everything kept to a monochrome colour-palette. A wonderfully eerie soundscape by Sarah Angliss, based of course around the familiarly sinister theme tune, complements the action, and the fascinating transitions executed by the cast with Paul Steinberg’s set almost steal the show. The versatile cast constantly switch between characters and stories, aided by a great number of quick-changes and wigs. It is an ensemble show, certainly, but Cosmo Jarvis and John Marquez are particularly memorable in their ability to play characters anguished by the perils of treading between light and shadow, science and superstition, fear and knowledge..
I loved this play. Creepy enough to get the adrenaline going (or maybe I’m just a scaredy-cat), yet endearing and funny enough to feel strangely comforting, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. A well-crafted production, The Twilight Zone was enhanced by many detailed touches, from the stage magic that made newspapers change front pages before our eyes to the purposeful delaying of the mention of the words ‘The Twilight Zone’ until the very end.
(photo credit: Marc Brenner)
The Twilight Zone is playing at the Almeida Theatre until 27th January 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.