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Shaun of the Dead comes back to life as stage show

PUBLISHED: 16:17 23 September 2015 | UPDATED: 16:35 23 September 2015

Chas Burns and Ross Millward in Shaun of the Dead Live. Picture: Kim Carter

Chas Burns and Ross Millward in Shaun of the Dead Live. Picture: Kim Carter

Archant

Almost Legal productions are bringing the cult zombie horror-comedy to the Hackney Empire on October 2, says Alex Bellotti.

It frequently ranks as one of the greatest horror-comedy movies of all time, and even shot its co-writer and star, Simon Pegg, towards the unlikeliest of Hollywood careers. Now, 12 years after its initial release, Shaun of the Dead is coming back to life as an interactive stage production.

The cult film, which sees two Crouch End slackers (Pegg and Nick Frost) become zombie slayers during a rising of the undead, is to make its London stage debut at the Hackney Empire on October 2. Made by Almost Legal Productions, the show provides a ‘zombie survival kit’ for audience members, so they can join in with classic scenes from the film, which include its hapless protagonists fending off zombies with cricket bats and vinyl records.

Having recently enjoyed a sold-out date in Manchester, actor Chas Burns, who plays Shaun, says the production hopes to emulate classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show and develop a loyal live following.

“Rocky Horror has happened like this organically – it started out as a stage show and people started shouting things and being involved,” he explains. “America really took it into their hands; British audiences tend to have a sideways glace, look at everyone else and check it’s alright to do it first. But I have to say the British audiences have been fantastic and got right into this. We’re trying to cram 40 years of Rocky Horror evolution into one year of Shaun of the Dead.”

Almost Legal’s show has been fully backed by the film’s original team, and uses projections and lines from the original script to bridge the differences between screen and stage.

The reason for the film’s unexpected worldwide cult following, Burns believes, stems from its strongly relatable characters.

“Everyone’s had a friend like Ed, and everyone’s had a friend like Shaun. There’s this whole culture in Britain of saying, ‘You’ve got to stand up and be counted’, but at some stage everybody’s reluctant to do that – people want to carry on playing and just be kids.

“Shaun and Ed find it incredibly difficult. There’s a whole scene where Shaun’s in the shop and Noel says to him about him being a granddad and Shaun says, ‘Well hold on a minute I’m 29 for Christ’s sake’. He’s actually 30something, but he’s trying to hold onto his youth.”

With the recent surge of interest in zombie stories, and new television shows like AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead, there’s certainly a mass appeal for Shaun of the Dead Live.

Having immersed himself in the genre for over a year, Burns believes he has fathomed the reason behind its popularity.

“People love zombies so much because they can hide behind being a zombie. They don’t need to become something; they don’t need to act really. All they need to do is play dead, which everybody knows how to do.

“If you want to be a werewolf or a vampire or anything else across the spectrum, you’ve got to act. As a zombie you dress down; you’ve got to look your worst. This is the only show on the planet at the moment which is saying to come and see it, but make sure you dress down!”

Shaun of the Dead Live takes place at Hackney Empire on October 2. Tickets are £20. Visit hackneyempire.co.uk

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