Given the title, you could be forgiven for assuming this was a show that relied on wackiness for its own sake, à la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. However, Zombie Prom is well aware of all such pitfalls and explores its premise (heartbroken 1950s teen throws himself into a nuclear waste dump, returns as zombie) so imaginatively and creates such a thematically cohesive unit of storytelling that the title barely does it justice.
Set perfectly in the vault at Cowgate’s Big Belly, it starts conventionally enough as we meet the students of Enrico Fermi High (the first of many nuclear-themed gags) and their moralistic/patriotic schoolmarm Delilah Strict (Helena Westerman). The show does excellent work in the opening minutes to establish the thoroughly skewed priorities of adolescents living under the threat of nuclear fallout, as the demands of the senior prom compete for attention with the fear of the Soviets’ first strike capability. The script’s commitment to maintaining this kitschy proto-Grease atmosphere is highly commendable and keeps the general absurdity at Strangelove-ian levels throughout.
The show quickly and wisely gets on with bringing together then tearing apart its romantic leads Jonny (the Bieber-esque Ollie Harrison-Hall) and Toffee (Ellie Adlard). The plot is wonderfully odd, absolutely logical and an extremely fun ride. By the time the green-skinned Jonny resurfaces and the story is picked up by tabloid hack Eddie Flagrante (Lucas Mansilla), the show has already built its own bizarre internal momentum, maintained in no small part by the cleverness and inventiveness of its musical numbers and the overriding tension of the impending prom. By its conclusion it had achieved something rather special indeed.
There is a lot to commend in Zombie Prom, not least the precision of the dance numbers and the careful attention paid to small, often throwaway lines and details. There were fantastic individual performances from the delightfully sleazy Mansilla and the wonderfully authoritarian Westerman who gave an unexpected subplot a whole life of its own. Harrison-Hall and Adlard do sterling work keeping straight-faced through the zombie-as-prom-date storyline, which itself makes exceedingly silly mileage out of zombie puns without breaking the show’s straightly earnest spirit. The sheer amount of great material packed into its run time is impressive, that it all hangs together so beautifully is remarkable.
The supporting cast is similarly without a weak link, and special mention must go to Tim Lintern and Barry O’Reilly’s musical number as the ‘2 Motorwise Guys’, 50s club singers complete with suggestive eyebrows and elaborate finger snapping. I was in stitches. Keep your eyes peeled for Josh (Freddie Meredith) and Ginger’s (Flo Read) awkward slow dance - similarly wonderful. And finally, to whoever was responsible for writing a pun that was 75 minutes in the making: bravo.
Zombie Prom is a charming and adeptly constructed show that deserves attention. Some might balk at the 11.30am start-time, but regardless of your circumstance it’s either a perfect hangover cure or an excellent start to a busy day’s Fringe-ing. Don’t miss it.