I’m pretty lucky to know some great people.  Great people like Alex Kingcott, who I called yesterday when it was decided that I was too sick to go to the opening night of Ground Zero‘s production of William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead!  I was so desperate to go, but alas, this terrible cold that everyone seems to have, has left me housebound for the past few days. Luckily, Alex stepped up and wrote a review of the show!  It looks and sounds so great. I’m hoping a get a chance to see it week.

To be, or not to zombie? That is the question. The answer: when done by the after-life-loving boys and girls at Ground Zero Theatre/Hit & Myth Productions, you’re in good hands. That gang has successfully entertained Calgary audiences with blood-spewing zombie and exploding cat theatre for years (Evil Dead: The Musical, Lieutenant of Inishmore etc). But how does Calgary’s The Shakespeare Company fit it into it? How does William Shakespeare fit into zombieville at all for that matter?

The answer to that question is this play: William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead by John Heimbuch. What might seem like an unlikely combination is actually one of the best collaborations I’ve seen on the Calgary stage in a long time. This play, which I’m sure you’ve gathered by now includes both Shakespearean wit and a zombie apocalypse, shows off what each company is known for doing best. And it works.

The plot: It’s 1599 and Shakespeare (Haysam Kadri) has just completed a performance in his newly completed Globe Theatre. Domestic political quibbles between players become quickly overshadowed (mostly) when an all-out zombie apocalypse breaks out nearby (much like the plague of the time which killed hundreds of thousands, including members of Shakespeare’s own family), the Queen herself comes to hide, and there is suddenly nothing standing between Shakespeare’s company and their very own Walking Dead episode but some bricks and semi-useless stage combat skills.

I’m not a theatre critic and I won’t judge performances – but the cast as a whole nails it and has fun doing it. Regular actors from both camps (including Kadri, Joel Cochrane, Karl Sine, and Richard Kenyon) are obviously enjoying the novelty of something new, but I’d like to give particular props to the emerging artists on stage, particularly Kelsey Flower and Quinn Contini, and the extended cast of bloody bit-part zombies.

Whereas in high school, it might have been somewhat nerdy to stand up and boldly recite the lines of the Bard in English class (some of us did it anyway…with less than successful results), when you go to this show, expect the tables to be turned. These boys (Heimbuch, Kadri, Cochrane, and Luhning) have created an environment when NOT knowing the Shakespearean ‘inside jokes’ scattered in the script makes YOU the uncool one. It made me wish I payed more attention in high school. I wanted to be one of the cool kids.

Go have some nerdy, bloody fun at the theatre Calgary. This is a date show for you and your main squeeze or your bro’s. It’s silly fun that makes you smarter.

LAND OF THE DEAD runs in The Studio at Vertigo Theatre until April 6. Tickets available here

Special thanks to Alex Kingcott for writing this review! 

Mike Morrison


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