The Twilight Zone
Almeida, London ★★★★★
ANYONE who can do The Twilight Zone theme (Do-do Do-do, Do-do Do-do, if that helps the uninitiated) knows that this was the TV show in which the downright spooky bumped into sci-fi.
That music, incidentally, was written by Bernard Herrmann, best known for the stabbing violins in Psycho (Eeeek, Eeeek, Eeeek). And one day Norman and his dead mom from that movie will surely stalk the stage, just like the Exorcist, which is currently in the West End.
The latest screen-to-stage adaptation is this 1960s collection of paranormal parables. US playwright Anne Washburn crams eight Twilight Zone episodes into one show. We begin in an isolated diner where bus passengers are taking refuge from an ice storm. Enter the local sheriff who is investigating reports of a crashed UFO. Trouble is, the bus driver counted six passengers. So who’s the seventh? Do-do Do-do, Do-do Do-do…
The cast pitch-perfectly replicates the camp earnestness of the original series. This is the closest theatre gets to black and white TV. A starry night sky serves as a backdrop and goggle-wearing stagehands twirl cut-outs for special effects.
What elevates Richard Jones’s funny and frightening production is the way in which Washburn, author of the much under-valued 2014 play Mr Burns, which brilliantly imagined a future where all culture was derived from The Simpsons, uses nostalgic horror to comment on modern America.
This story about a suburban community under nuclear attack climaxes in a race war. It’s as if there are forces in the universe telling us something about Trump’s America. You might say, the truth is out there. Oh, sorry, that’s The X-Files.