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Review: The Twilight Zone, Almeida Theatre - sinister and silly fun

It doesn't really matter if you aren't familiar with the 1950s/60s American TV series The Twilight Zone you'll soon get a feel for what it was like when you watch this stage version at the Almeida Theatre.

OK, so there will be some references you'll miss but if  you want to do a teeny bit of prep just watch this video clip of the The Twilight Zone TV series intro sequence.

The Twilight Zone Almeida TheatreI don't know if the way the play is structured mirrors the TV series or not (I never watched it) but what you get is a series of individual stories that are broken up into different sized chunks and then weaved together.

The effect it to have several stories running simultaneously, often breaking off at a cliff hanger, to move onto another, then another before coming back to continue a particular story.

There are recurring motifs, images and skits (for want of a better word) that link everything together.

Even the set is a mixture of other-worldliness and 60's TV.  It resembles the inside of a box - or an old fashioned TV - painted to look like a star-studded night sky.

Sets for different stories are wheeled in place or carried with an exaggerated flourish from behind panels which open at the sides.

These also allow the cast to slip on and off stage sometimes unseen in what feels like the human equivalent of a slight of hand trick.

Sets, costumes, props are all period in keeping with the TV series - even the performances - and this is part of what makes it fun. There are some suitably dodgy 60s style wigs for instance.

Stories range from a mysterious extra passenger on a bus journey that has been interrupted by bad weather to a child that has gone missing from her room but can still be heard calling out for her parents.

They all have a mixture of humour, silliness and something a little odd. It is best summed up by a character in the opening story who laughs at almost everything that he or other people say. It is a laugh that treads the line between mirth and sinister.

Once you get used to the format the first half rattles along playfully - too playfully compared to the TV series? But it is in the second half where it gets really interesting.

There is one particularly powerful story about a group of people trying to get into their neighbours bomb shelter which chimes with contemporary issues about race, immigration and what it means to be American.

The Twilight Zone is a lot of fun, a little bit frightening and occasionally thought provoking. It's imaginatively staged, almost variety show-esque with its magic tricks and ventriloquism and it was an enjoyable night at the theatre.

It's two hours and 2o minutes long including an interval and I'm giving it 4 stars. See it at the Almeida Theatre until January 27.