Theatre Review: The Twilight Zone Is An Excellent Play... In Some Parallel Universe

The Twilight Zone, Ambassadors Theatre ★★☆☆☆

Theatre Review: The Twilight Zone Is An Excellent Play... In Some Parallel Universe The Twilight Zone, Ambassadors Theatre 2
Photo: Johan Persson

In a parallel universe, Anne Washburn's adaptation of the classic US television programme The Twilight Zone is one of the best things to see in the West End. 1. It's an evening of spooky short stories spliced together using bold stagecraft. 2. It's all about politics, human irrationality, and fear of the Russians: as relevant now as it was during the Cold War. 3. It's got that music. 4. Best of all, it's funnier than the telly original — with magically-appearing cigarettes, alien costumes, and a barmy gag that nobody quite gets involving a ventriloquist's dummy.

Step back into our own dimension and what's bonkers is not always brilliant. Under Richard Jones's direction, the Twilight Zone is undeniably an interesting thing to look at: full of mysterious moving doors and ever-changing sets in which the actors — each shifting between different roles — play out an array of paranormal episodes. We have the incident of the extra-terrestrial in the café, the young girl lost in a wormhole, and the American space hero who may never have been real.

But none of the stories travel anywhere unexpected; instead drifting into the realms of the under-explored, or the obvious. The most intense tale in this rather incoherent bunch is a subtle-as-a-sledgehammer parable in which a group of neighbours go crazy and try to break into a friend's nuclear shelter, fearing an imminent nuclear apocalypse. Give a human mind an obsession and it is capable of doing extraordinary things, we are told — whether imaginative or dangerous. But all our brain could manage during this sparkly though rather needless 2.5-hour show was... well... zone out.

The Twilight Zone, Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, WC2H 9ND, from £19.50. Until 1 June

Last Updated 13 March 2019