Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Lost in space | 11 January 2018

Plus: muddle at the Almeida and conceptual tedium at the National

The Twilight Zone, an American TV show from the early 1960s, reinvented the ghost story for the age of space exploration. Director Richard Jones has collaborated with Anne Washburn to turn several TV episodes into a single play. Eight episodes in all. Way too many. The structure is designed to bamboozle us from the start. Some of the storylines have been broken up and are placed episodically throughout the piece, while others are preserved as units and delivered whole. Even the most keen-eyed viewer gets flummoxed by this mystery. Among the storylines that baffled me were: a cop quizzes some stranded bus passengers to find out which is an alien; a little girl vanishes through a wormhole in space-time; a man is haunted by a lack of sleep; a group of airmen returning from a mission discover that two or three (or perhaps just one) of them have been airbrushed out of newspaper reports. A group of angry neighbours fight over the last berth in a bomb shelter during a nuclear attack.

The show looks cheap and flimsy and it aims for an atmosphere of goofy pastiche. There are lots of gags involving silly props and mysteriously vanishing cigarettes. One of the actors specialises in an ‘amusing’ laugh. Played at midnight to an audience of drunks, the show would succeed. For about five minutes. Then it would stale. The running time is two-and-a-half hours. I’ve seen a few muddles posing as dramas at the Almeida but this is one of the hardest to disentangle.

Pinocchio is the story of a genial carpenter who carves a toy out of a plank of wood. The toy, Pinocchio, is possessed by a single ambition: to dispense with his wooden nature and become a human being like his creator.

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