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Theatre review Almeida in the zone with potent mix of humour and horror

The Twilight Zone
Almeida Theatre, London

IF THE general festive mood is getting a bit too much, The Twilight Zone at the Almeida might just be the palette cleanser you’re looking for.

Drawing very directly on the CBS TV series produced by the charismatic Rod Serling, the Almeida’s production keeps all the kitschy glamour of the original series while successfully transferring the sci-fi weirdness to the stage.

Anne Washburn’s adaptation, directed with precision by Richard Jones, takes eight episodes of the TV show and weaves them together to create a spellbinding entertainment.

We visit a diner where one member of a group of stranded bus passengers isn’t quite what they seem, we meet a man too scared of his dreams to fall asleep and a little girl gets lost in another dimension. The interweaving of these stories, along with others, creates a wonderfully strange atmosphere and Jones’s direction sees the cast effortlessly move from humour to horror.

The first half sets the stories up and plunges us into an odd new world, brilliantly conjured by Paul Steinberg’s set, Mimi Jordan Sherin’s lighting design and the sound and musicscapes created by Sarah Angliss, Christopher Shutt and Stephen Bentley-Klein.

But there's a rather unexpected turn to the political after the interval. Here Washburn’s adaptation gives some of the stories more space and a particular sequence, in which several families try to get into their neighbour’s nuclear shelter because they believe nuclear bombs are on the way, shifts into a discussion of US identity and race which is equally at home in the the horrifying world of President Trump as it is in the 1960s.

The performances are lively, with all the cast making the most of the camp sci-fi potential. John Marquez is on point as the Serlingesque narrator and Lizzie Connolly is great as Maja the Catwoman, belting out a wonderfully odd song with correspondingly odd choreography.

A fabulous series of strange tales and a great antidote to the wall-to-wall festive cheer.

Runs until January 27, box office: almeida.co.uk

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