Re-Animator The Musical

You know something's different about a show when the people in the first three rows - also known as the slosh pit - are issued with cheap Scotland-branded ponchos. Given that the George Square Theatre does not have a reputation for a leaky roof, this can mean only one thing: it's likely to get a bit messy on stage. Indeed, the first burst of stage blood sprays out across the crowd within a minute of Re-Animator: the Musical bursting into glorious, 3-D life. Before curtain down, copious amounts of internal organs and bodily fluids are set to follow - thrown, sprayed, and vomited from the stage. As forms of audience participation go, it is fairly unique, but it clearly adds to the excitement among the decidedly younger crowd as they willingly cloak themselves in plastic.

Re-Animator: the Musical is based on the cult film that, in turn, is inspired by a short story by the horror fantasy writer H. P. Lovecraft. Herbert West is a creepy medical student with dubious credentials who is obsessed with trying to bring back the dead, although it’s somewhat disconcerting that, in this production, he looks rather like a bulked-up Daniel Radcliffe dressed as one of the Men in Black. While starting his researches with small animals (rats, rabbits, his roommate's cat) West realises that proper scientific recognition will only come when he successfully reanimates a human being, and so drags in his roommate Dan Cain (also a talented medical student with a reluctance to let people die) as his co-conspirator. Unfortunately, there's one small problem: the generally violent and uncontrollable nature of the reanimated corpses. West, of course, is absolutely confident that he can sort that out in time. After all, when getting Cain to read his scientific notes, he insists Cain does so out loud... Because he likes the sound of his own words?

Re-Animator starts off fast and furious, and then builds to a crescendo with a body-count that even the most vicious Jacobean revenge tragedy can only dream off, given that the corpses keep on moving. But this is not without problems; for a time the show becomes little more than a disjointed series of sketches doing nothing more than drench the aforementioned slosh pit with as much fake blood and gore as possible, while the cast (in various stages of undress and bodily mutilation) run around like they're in some Hammer film/Benny Hill farce.

Director Stuart Gordon brought the original film to the screen, but is perhaps just too close to the material for its own good. While the cast acquit themselves well, there are times when the clarity of the story is lost in all the noise. Even the rotund form of George Wendt (formerly Norm in Cheers) as the University Principal, who ends up as a lobotomised, re-animated corpse, sometimes seems genuinely stunned by what’s going on around him.

Re-Animator: the Musical certainly isn't subtle, and at times it's not even that funny, but as a fond homage to the golden age of horror it's certainly an enjoyable night out. Just don't wear your best clothes if you want to sit anywhere near the front.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

The Blurb

From Stuart Gordon, director of the cult classic H. P. Lovecrafts' Re-Animator, featuring George Wendt (Norm from Cheers); Winner of LA Weekly's Musical of the Year. 'Eye-popping: should have fans storming the theater' (LA Times).