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The Twilight Zone is one of those cult classics destined for immortality. An American TV series that first appeared in the late ’50s, it was revived in mid ’80s and early ’00s, and is set to return to the small screen again in the US this April. In addition to being transformed into a film produced by Steven Spielberg in 1983, it’s recently been rebooted for the stage.
Following a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre last year, The Twilight Zone has transferred to Ambassadors Theatre where it will play until 1 June 2019.
The Twilight Zone was created in 1959 by Rod Serling as an anthology television series offering elements of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Often moralistic, each episode ends with a memorable twist.
Based on stories by Serling as well as Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, The Twilight Zone has been adapted for the West End stage by Anne Washburn and director Richard Jones.
Like all of its forerunners, this new incarnation brings audiences a cornucopia of strangeness through eight stories that don’t seem at all connected, but sometimes are. Set in an alternate dimension – “not only of sight and sound, but of mind” – you’ll find it difficult to know what’s real and what’s make-believe.
The Twilight Zone features a cast of 10 consisting of Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Alisha Bailey, Natasha J Barnes, Adrianna Bertola, Daniel Crossley, Dyfan Dwyfor, Neil Haigh, Nicholas Karimi, Lauren O’Neil and Matthew Steer (check out photos of them in rehearsal here).
The talented actors take on multiple roles and have a penchant for playing peculiar characters – especially Crossley who superbly embodies the iconic smoking narrator that was played by Serling himself on the original TV series.
Like perfectly choreographed dancers, they move props around and carry spinning wheels with eyeballs and other odd images to unsettle your senses.
As The Twilight Zone opens, you’ll notice a hefty old-style television box suspended overhead with a nighttime starry sky forming the backdrop. When the cast appear on stage in their grey-toned attire and makeup, the monochromatic look creates an otherworldly feel. It echoes that of the original TV show which was broadcast in black and white.
Things kick off with a recreation of one of Serling’s most popular stories, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”, where a small group of people travelling on a bus arrive at a diner only to discover there’s an extra among them. When it’s revealed that a UFO has crashed nearby, the cast deliver stellar performances in capturing the anxiety, mistrust and fear that ensues as they try to identify which one of them doesn’t belong.
The Twilight Zone inspires nervousness and ambiguity. Often there’s a white door present on stage…another nod to the original series. With characters constantly passing through it, the audience is left unsure of where the cast truly are.
Perhaps the most powerful moments in this production come when neighbours are pitted against each other to get into an atom bomb shelter. In their desperation, unseemly sides of their nature are revealed. This story in particular poses timely questions about everything from one’s love of country to what it means to be a citizen.
Along with tales of sleepless paranoia and alternate universes, there’s also a love story. Imagine if you were about to be blasted into space on a 40-year mission – but the night before it begins, you meet the love of your life.
In The Twilight Zone all of these stories are rolled together, much like the spinning wheel props. Offbeat and unorthodox, they sometimes make your spine tingle but they also make you think about things from a different perspective.
The Twilight Zone was radical in its time and its tales of the paranormal still have a place to inspire us today. Just be sure to check realism at the door, and then prepare to enjoy “a journey into a wondrous land of imagination”.
“A treat from far beyond” – Evening Standard
“Whirling paranormal kaleidoscope” – The Guardian
“Unsettling, dazzling and sophisticated entertainment” – WhatsOnStage
The Twilight Zone is showing at Ambassadors Theatre in the West End until 1 June 2019.
Tickets for The Twilight Zone are on sale now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.