CurtainUp
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


A CurtainUp London Review
The Twilight Zone

"We are a dreaming species in an unknown country."
— Compere
The Twilight Zone
Daniel Crossley
(Photo: Johan Persson)
It is sixty years since television viewers were gripped by tales of mystery and the paranormal in a television series known for its spooky music and the spinning of a spiral which broke apart to reveal the starry firmament. The designers have reproduced this starscope on the entire walls of the set and cleverly matched costumes which then merge into the starscape of snowballs in the dark.

Eight of Rod Serling's stories which made up the six year series are intermixed here and told in two, three or four episodes not shown together. Remember this series made the last episodes two years before the launch of the enduring Star Trek. Anne Washburn who wrote for stage the enigmatic Mr Burns ( review) and the recent Shipwrecked ( review) has written this homage for the stage. We start in an American bus company depot where a coach driver (Oliver Alvin-Wilson) and his passengers are stranded. The mystery is how with only six passengers on board, they now number seven and who is the intruder and how did they get on board?

I presume it must have been Greyhound Coaches because everyone is dressed in monochrome greys, all colour bleached or darkened out of sight. This colour choice makes us think of things ethereal but may simply be a reference to the original series which ran in black and white. In any case, Nicky Gillibrand's costumes are thrilling and in period with this artificial colour scheme.

Just as the original series mixed the genre of its tales from science fiction to the supernatural or psychological suspense, Washburn has chosen a range of stories, like a sampler. In between scenes people whirl the spinning logo, the series was known for, and play the eerie music. There are wonderful visual magic tricks by illusionists Richard Wiseman and Will Houstoun with the grey suitcases moving and springing open seemingly by themselves.

Some stories have themes we can relate to today. One woman undergoes surgery to be more beautiful only to find that she is not perceived as beautiful by the others. In the final act, a sketch, which I found overly long, has a neighbourhood arguing to be let into the nuclear shelter built by a more far-seeing man who, in previous scenes, advised they should build their own. This has parallels with the refugees building up at the borders today but is the story of "Little Red Hen".

There are superb performances and quick changes from the talented ensemble cast directed by Richard Jones. There are clever and unexpected images. The scene changes have a choreographed elegance with the twirling effects but unless you are a fan of the nostalgia of this early television series, I doubt that any deeper pleasure will result from seeing this show. I came away admiring the design, the style, but not finding the substance.





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PRODUCTION NOTES
The Twilight Zone
Written by Anne Washburn
Based on stories by Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson
Directed by Richard Jones
Starring: Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Alisha Bailey, Natasha J Barnes, Adrianna Bertola, Daniel Crossley, Dyfan Dwyfor, Neil Haigh, Nicholas Karimi, Lauren O'Neil, Matthew Steer, Derek Hagen, Charlotte McCurry, Stanton Plummer-Cambridge
Set Design: Paul Steinberg
Costume Design: Nicky Gillibrand
Illusions: Richard Wiseman and Will Houstoun
Choreographer: Aletta Collins
Composer and Sound Designer: Sarah Angliss
Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt
Lighting Design: Mimi Jordan Sherin and DM Wood
Film sequences and animations: Stephen La Riviere and Andrew T Smith
Music Director: Stephen Bentley-Klein
Running time: Two hour 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7395 5405
Booking to 1st June 2019
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th March 2019 evening performance at Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London WC2H 9ND (Tube: Leicester Square)
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