Review: Night of the Living Dead Live (Nictophobia Films)

Having reviewed for Mooney on Theatre for a number of years now, I must admit that I’ve become a bit of a theatre snob. This is of course contrary to the mandate of MoT, which aims to share opinions that are constructive and accessible for theatre lovers and soon-to-be-converts. After years of biweekly (or more) productions, it’s rare to see a production as clever, well-rehearsed, and completely spot-on as Nictophobia Films’ Night of the Living Dead Live, playing at Theatre Passe Muraille until May 19th.

Barbra and Johnny are visiting their late father’s grave when Johnny is attacked by a “living, dead creature”. Barbra flees to a neighbouring farmhouse that quickly becomes a safehouse to a motley crew of a terrified family of three, a young couple and another man who must outsmart/outlast the impending zombie army encircling the house before it’s too late!

Based on the 1968 film of the same name, the characters in the live version poke fun at the half-witted attempts for salvation in the original film’s using 1960’s vernacular, complete with outdated tongue and cheek sexist and racist overtones. But unlike many period pieces which use the era as a defence for re-enforcing old ideas, this writing team found ways to mock the characters and the status quo without modernizing the feeling of the staged version.

Because the movie was shot in black and white, the creative team comprised of set, lighting and make-up designers made the eery Pennsylvania location, stage lights and actors completely colourless using shades of grey clothing and make-up to cast a semblance of cinematic light. It was wholly effective, stylizing the venue and reenforcing the relationship between screen and stage marvellously.

In the aisles, recruits from Toronto’s annual Zombie Walk acted as ushers and set a creepy, but hilarious atmosphere before the lights dimmed. The very talented and energetic cast were delightful to watch, each one holding their own as they played many different roles with quick costume changes, accents and characterizations. One of the zombies was the spitting image of Stephen Harper, which I also thought – intentional or not – added to the creative brilliance of the piece.

My guest and I were laughing hysterically throughout the play, equally blown away by the prevalence of design and faithful adherence to a well-conceived concept.

If you like zombies, video games, old movies, snappy comedies, and don’t mind a hint of violence this play is for you. The second floor of Theatre Passe Muraille is licenced, and there are late shows. Need I say more?

Night of the Living Dead Live is a rendition of a cult classic film which grossed almost 200 times its original budget. No surprise here as the creation of a perfect staged version is set to be an international smash success. Drag your undead butt to this show!


  • Night of the Living Dead Live at the Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) until May 19, 2013
  • Performances are Tuesday to Sunday at 7:30pm with late shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 11pm
  • Tickets are $29.50 – $59.50
  • Tickets can be ordered online or by calling TPM box office at 416-504-7529

Photo by Christos Kalohoridis