Much Ado About Zombies

With such an intriguing name, the cynical part of me was almost prepared to be let down. How could this show possibly live up to its title? Happily, Thread Theatre Company has done an admirable job of delivering on their premise, even though there was the potential for a little bit more.

If you’ve ever been involved in a theatrical production, you’ll appreciate a lot of the back-and-forth between the cast

The play revolves around a typical performance of Much Ado About Nothing during a zombie apocalypse. Charlotte Dove and Declan Baxter, two members of the stage team, dangerously ascribe to the philosophy of ‘the show must go on’ as they attempt to keep both the cast and the audience in the dark. As expected, this only succeeds for so long.

Surprisingly, the show was not entirely zombie-centric. In fact, a large amount of the plot was dedicated to post-sexual awkwardness between John and Steph, the actors playing Benedick and Beatrice, as well as other personal relationships within the cast. Daringly, there was even a fair bit of actual Shakespeare and as crass as I feel for saying so, there could have perhaps been a little less Shakespeare and a few more zombies. Wait! Allow me to explain, angry literary mob!

Initially the subtlety in the build of the apocalypse was nice, with the occasional noise or steadily worsening actor. But, perhaps wary of playing all their cards at once, the company hold the zombies back. This is sensible; once the trick is used, it’s gone. That said, the build-up feels a bit samey and repetitive during the middle section of the play. The lights go out several times, largely as an excuse for the actors to chat about their personal lives. After a strong beginning with a scurrying technical team and a collapsed actor, I was expecting a little bit more, but a lot of the development is kept offstage in all too quiet a manner. There are plenty of moments where more could appear to ‘go wrong’ or to be in some way affected by the apocalypse outside. At one moment, we’re basically treated to ten minutes of uninterrupted Shakespeare, which was good in its own right, but damn it, we’re paying for zombies!

This section is perhaps best characterised by the introduction of Julia. The actress playing Margaret has apparently left before the apocalypse began. Desperate for a replacement, the stage crew are only able to find this random South African from the one-woman-show about masturbation in the theatre next door. Her overacted interpretation was sort of funny but also sort of felt like the play was stalling on its delivery. Subtlety is all well and good, but it needs to provide something at the end.

That said, there are many laughs to be had. If you’ve ever been involved in a theatrical production, you’ll appreciate a lot of the back-and-forth between the cast and the amusingly inebriated Irish director, portrayed wonderfully by Shenine Rajakarunanayake. When the show finally gets back into the swing of things, we’re treated to a hilarious attempt to stage Claudio’s wedding despite Claudio’s apparent predilection for a recently severed foot instead. Why the stage team are so desperate for the show to continue despite everything is never really explained, but it doesn’t really have to be. Denied a curtain call for amusing reasons, this audience happily applauded anyway.

Despite the slight wane in the middle, Much Ado About Zombies is worth a punt and promises to provide an enjoyable late afternoon of entertainment.

Reviews by James Beagon

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The Blurb

Witness the trials and tribulations of staging a beloved Shakespearean comedy in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Will Benedick and Beatrice finally get it on, or will they be eaten first?