Review: The Twilight Zone, The Ambassadors Theatre

A slick and clever take on the popular TV series The Twilight Zone, this show is deeply rooted in the unnaturalistic world of sci-fi, where aliens and magic portals occur in almost every scene. A silly night at the theatre that feels like a series of nightmares – macabre and spooky.

This play depicts many different episodes of the celebrated CBS series of the same name that aired from 1959- 1964. The show is a mixture of psychological thrillers, horror stories and fantasy plot lines, each ending with a strong moral. Unfortunately this moral is not entirely clear in every scenario.

The Twilight Zone takes you through mysterious alien landings on earth, tragic deaths that appear from nowhere and bizarre moments where people suddenly no longer exist. The problem with the play being made up of so many random scenes, is that it feels completely confusing for the majority of the evening. Nothing is clear about the connection between these situations and they seem random and disjointed. They attempt to tie it all together in the closing speech, but I don’t feel satisfied by this ending and want more of an explanation as to what I just watched. Perhaps this is a show for the true lovers of the original series, in which case it’s stylistically spot on and transports the audience back to TV in 1950s American stupendously. However if you are like me and have little knowledge of this show, the plot lines seem silly and a bit dated. The absurdity of each scene makes the whole play almost like a spoof film.

A big credit is due to Paul Steinberg for his fantastic set design. The whole production of The Twilight Zone is extremely polished and includes mesmerising ‘magic tricks’, where suitcases and glasses float in mid air. The set creates an ominous dark atmosphere that compliments the creepy music by Sarah Angliss. As well as the comical costumes by Nicky Gollibrand that create aliens on stage! However the most amusing moment for me is the first scene change. In this, actors are dressed in lab coats made of the same pattern as the backdrop and hold giant signs with equations and eyes on them- stylistically very accurate to 1950s TV. However, for me, it takes the silliness of the show one step too far. As a production however, I think this show is faultless; it’s the story that makes it difficult to really feel wowed by it.

Alternatively I am wowed by the cast, especially Natasha J. Barnes and Daniel Crossley, who stand out among the ten actors. They are given the chance to do this in the only musical number of the show. Barnes’ voice effortlessly sings a haunting melody and acts splendidly throughout, coupled with Crossley athletically dancing. This number is my favourite moment of the whole show. Crossley is also captivating to watch and acts with true vigour and passion. In fact the whole cast is faultless and every single actor portrays a thoroughly convincing appearance, even if it is in such bizarre scenarios.  

Overall, my issue with this show is the jumping from scene to scene in such a random manner, which makes it hard to really connect to any of the characters. Therefore no real empathy is felt and each time a new personality comes on stage, they are unfamiliar and random. There is no doubt that each of these little plots are intriguing, but the audience don’t get enough time to truly understand and explore them before it moves onto the next one.

Everything in The Twilight Zone is well thought out and highly impressive, it’s just unfortunate that the story couldn’t match this level of excellence.

The Twilight Zone is playing at The Ambassadors Theatre  until 1 June 2019. For more information and tickets, see The Ambassadors Theatre website.