The Twilight Zone at the Ambassadors Theatre: ‘an enjoyable if unmemorable night out’

Anthony Walker-Cook reviews The Twilight Zone, a recent adaptation of the 1960s cult TV show. 

Smoking will kill us, one day. That’s all I seem to be able to take from The Twilight Zone, the theatrical adaptation by Anne Washburn of the 1960s American television series. As the evening progresses characters, some smokers but others not, all find cigarettes between their fingers. As one of her many characters Natasha J. Barnes even vomits up some cigs in one of many surreal scenes that feel more twee than unnerving. These cigarettes that appear throughout the show offer the only unity to an enjoyable if unmemorable night out.

Washburn has taken eight episodes from the original show and interweaved them for the purposes of forming this new production. We open in a diner where one of the patrons may be an alien, whilst elsewhere a young girl has in her sleep slipped into an alternate dimension, which is unfortunate at the best of times. Other stories include: a cryogenically-doomed spaceman, the weird relationship between Adrianna Bertola and her puppet Napoleon, and an insomniac with dreams that involve a singing cat. All in a day’s work for live theatre. 

The cast of The Twilight Zone.

If the show’s content is weird, it is at least complemented by Richard Wiseman and Will Housetoun’s illusions and a dedicated cast. Oliver Alvin-Wilson’s range is astounding, going from a Doctor-Who like cross-dimensional expert to a psychiatrist with subtle fluidity. Lauren O’Neill’s earnestness is as touching as can be given the show’s content and I’d be keen to hear Natasha Barnes in a musical soon. Clever moments of staging are comically juxtaposed with some low-budget costuming – I’m looking at you, Neil Haigh as ‘Big Headed Alien’ – that add to this zany show.

As noted above, the illusions of The Twilight Zone maintain some supposition of the uncanny, but amazingly the Ambassadors Theatre feels too big for this show. If audiences were closer to the action (or, as often the case, inaction rendered eerie) one might have felt a semblance of uncertainty as rotating boards with printed eyes fly around the set. Despite Richard Jones’ direction, at almost two and a half hours the show struggles with the mixed momentum of wildly different scenes. The Twilight Zone offers many fun vignettes, but as to actually entering the titular space of the uncanny it is a case of close but no cigar.   


The Twilight Zone is at the Ambassadors Theatre until the 1stof June, 2019.

Photograph credit: Matt Crockett.

Anthony Walker-Cook is a PhD candidate at UCL and is the Theatre editor for London Student. His interests include theatre adaptation, early modern drama, classical myths made modern and all things eighteenth century. For more information please contact: @AntWalker_Cook

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