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Twilight Zone’s energetic cast brings new dimension to the sixties classic

The Twilight Zone (Ambassadors Theatre) 

Rating:

Verdict: Spooky and funny

Like university students up and down the land, Anne Washburn’s method of work relied on watching hours and hours of old television. Namely dusty old sci-fi series The Twilight Zone.

The original CBS TV series that ran from the late Fifties to the mid-Sixties achieved cult status with its twisted stories — a select few of which Washburn has tweaked together in an Almeida Theatre production now transferred to the Ambassadors.

Natasha J. Barnes was particularly watchable with heaps of spooky charisma in The Twilight Zone

Natasha J. Barnes was particularly watchable with heaps of spooky charisma in The Twilight Zone

The result is charmingly odd. Tales of decades-long space missions, haunted diners, bedroom portals to new dimensions and ventriloquists fill the dark stage in a surprisingly effective Crossroads-esque low-tech way. Its nicely clunky sci-fi vibe and vintage twists had us laughing and oo‑ing like children.

The energetic cast defiantly start at volume 11 and proceed from there. Particularly watchable were Natasha J. Barnes, with heaps of spooky charisma, and Neil Haigh, with his terrifyingly deadpan face.

Some tales verge on the confusingly impressionistic (nightmarish singing circus folk, I’m looking at you). But, good grief, it’s engaging.

 

Austentatious (Fortune Theatre)

Rating:

Verdict: Nonsense and sensibility 

The secret is out. You can stage a full play sans set, sans script, sans direction. Thank Alan Ayckbourn for his services, for he is no longer needed. In Austentatious, breeches and flowing dresses are divided among a cast of six.

In Austentatious, an entire Jane Austen story is improvised after audience suggestions, starrig Cariad Lloyd

In Austentatious, an entire Jane Austen story is improvised after audience suggestions, starrig Cariad Lloyd

An entire Austen tale is improvised after audience suggestions (‘Made In Chelsea, Strumpet In Brixton’ shouted out our lot), with surreal twists and an impressive joke rate. It congeals into a satisfying storyline, despite the thrilling sensation that the wheels could come off any moment.

Cariad Lloyd hops from randy aged retainer to Georgian lap dancer and is often first with the strangest but funniest lines. Daniel Nils Roberts is a freshly sharpened wit, too.

This show may owe more to Little Britain than Mansfield Park but, at 90 minutes long, it’s the universally acknowledged perfect length for a play.

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