This black box, talking heads version of eight Twilight Zone episodes has been lovingly woven together by adaptor Anne Washburn, like a live action, two hour “clip show” special. But Mr Burns fans can expect — with no spoilers here — one or two decidedly modern and off-the-wall moments too.
Such a sparse production relies heavily on its actors (exactly like the original 1960s TV series), and director Richard Jones has absolutely nailed the stilted, yet somehow permanently calm and comfortable slice of Americana that is so distinctive in the original series. Even in the midst of horrific, supernatural danger, all characters retain a sense of dignity and cool; exactly like the ever-smoking narrator. The multi-role-playing cast of ten is absolutely what makes this new play such a success.
Though many audiences will attend for the nostalgia and kitsch, there’s no doubt that this production still captures the fear of those episodes; there’s an emotional punch too. Perhaps the most frightening of all is how relevant these decades-old scripts still are today: the threat of nuclear war; intra-American racism; child abuse; terrifying technological advancements. Somewhere between the excellent original writing, modern day actors, careful “theatricalising”, and a genius jumbling up of all the different episodes, this play takes on new significance over and above the original TV show.
There is, of course, some good-humoured parody (especially for the aliens stuff…) and a few, small-scale magical effects. But overall, the joy of The Twilight Zone (and, arguably, all sci-fi) isn’t in its special effects, it’s in the contemporary relevance of the thought-provoking and utterly enthralling writing. This stripped back production, blending so many episodes, allows this to really come to the fore… when you enter…
The Twilight Zone runs until 27 January 2018.