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Bringing Night of the Living Dead Back to Life
Mike Bodie tells us about the new Live stage version of the classic American horror film
Buy Tickets: Night of the Living Dead Live, April 9 to May 19, at Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7 9EF
Thank you for talking with us Mike. Our traditional opening question, where in the States (or the world) are you from?
I’m originally from Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia. Though I haven’t lived in the US since I was 5 years old.
How did you find yourself living in the UK?
My family didn’t want my sister and I to grow up being average Jane and John Doe Americans. They went travelling in the '80s and thought it would be a good idea to expose us to more of the world than what they themselves were raised with. So we packed up and immigrated to Germany when I was a kid. We weren’t military, diplomats, or on an expat package. We just picked up sticks and left. I ended up going to German schools for a number of years before I went into international schools (FIS in Germany, and TASIS in the UK).
You are one of the founders of Mischief Theatre, which has produced some great shows including Comedy about a Bank Robbery and The Play That Goes Wrong. Your upcoming show is described as a comedic tribute to the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. Can you tell us more about the show?
Night of the Living Dead LIVE, is a satire on the 1968 film of the same name. The film was one of the first pieces of cinema to introduce the concept of “zombies” into mainstream media. While zombies as an antagonist may have stood the test of time, the film has not, making it fine pickings for a comedic re-telling. The show does to the original film what the stage production of The 39 Steps did for its source material; take a classic piece of cinema and turn it on its head.
How did you become involved in the project?
My agent put me up for the project and I went through a few rounds of auditions before being offered the part of “Chief McClelland”
The original film was released in 1968, so at the same time as the Vietnam War, the civil rights movements and a big shift in American society. Does the live play look back at the film in its own context?
There are a few moments where it points out what would be considered, by today’s standard, ludicrous and grossly inappropriate mind-sets and perceptions from the period in which the play is based. Though with the show being a comedy, they aren’t too heavy handed.
How are you approaching your character in the show, and have you re-watched the original for inspiration for the character?
I’ve watched the original for some inspiration on how to approach ‘Chief McClelland’, the character I’m playing. Drawing from my training at LAMDA and experience in comedy, it was a pretty straightforward process of picking apart the beats and moments that drive the scenes and where the punchlines are. A lot of the script is designed to setup a joke for someone else, so it’s also very much a collaborative and ensemble piece.
Your shows, both this and for Mischief, really focus on fun and laughter. What interested you originally in comedy, and what makes comedy such a great vehicle for the stage?
With comedy you get an immediate response from the audience if something works or doesn’t. With traditional plays you won’t know if you’ve succeeded in entertaining the audience until the final curtain call, supposing of course they give you a generous round of applause, but that’s not always guaranteed. People go to the theatre for escapism. Comedy creates laughter, and laughing makes you feel good. It’s a near perfect formula if you ask me.
With Mischief Theatre, I have to ask - you're an American among Brits, how has your sense of humor interacted with theirs?
I’ve lived in Europe for over 25 years. My sense of humour is largely ‘British’ to begin with, so it was an easy fit. Though I do still get the occasional ribbing for being “The Yank”.
Your portfolio includes TV, theatre and even video games! Do you have a favored medium or do you enjoy working on all types of media and art?
All mediums have their challenges and required skill sets. I didn’t want to pigeon hole myself as that actor who does “this” or “that”. I go where the work takes me and so far it’s taking me to a lot of places.
What other projects do you have on the horizon?
Mischief has number of upcoming Theatre and Television Productions on the West End and the BBC. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything turns out.
Finally, what's the best thing about being Mike Bodie?
Just like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh; I’m the only one ;)
Night of the Living Dead Live runs at Pleasance, London from 9 April to 19 May 2019 Tickets available at www.LivingDeadLondon.com
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