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Actor Morgan Bailey on Night of the Living Dead™️ – Remix

4th April 2020 by Morven Macbeth

Thought I’d start with a little glimpse into the back story which would lead to me filling the shoes of Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead™️ – Remix.

My relationship with imitating the dog began in a somewhat unconventional fashion, which at the time, I had no complaints about none at all. It was a god send of an opportunity and I was profoundly grateful to be embarking on my journey in the world of professional theatre. So a quick thank you to imitating the dog for throwing caution to the wind and taking a leap of faith. And if I can be so bold, I think it’s safe to say that the decision to do so was worthwhile for both parties.

Anyway, after successfully touring Heart Of Darkness with the company in the spring of 2019, I was left in a blend of marvel and exhaustion at what we had achieved. Additionally, I was made up over breaking into this medium through such unique and abstract means. However, unbeknownst to me, my journey with imitating the dog was far from over. They had something else in mind for this Manc lad and I was once again brought back into fold.

I didn’t know much about this particular project, despite Julie Brown’s valiant attempt in giving me a quick summary over the phone. Nonetheless, it answered a familiar tone to Heart Of Darkness and I was very much invested. So as any well versed actor does, I prepared. I watched the film, attended accent one to ones with the very adept Nic Redman and worked my way beneath the skin of the Ben.

However, and I can’t speak for everyone, but I for one felt a little out of my depth to begin with. This production very much encompassed a sink or swim attitude from the word go. It was a very formidable beast and the elements that I had initially sought out to tame, weren’t exactly as incumbent during the rehearsal process. So from my standpoint, playing the hero of the play and all, I felt as though I had a lot of ground to cover. I don’t know if my demeanour gave much away to everyone, but I did feel the pressure, especially once the underpinning commentaries on societal shortcomings surfaced in team discussions.

It was unpacking that, which really made me adore the hours spent sewing together this piece of theatre. That as well as the luxury of sitting back in the auditorium and watching the first fifteen minutes breathe life for the first few times. I was completely mesmerised and even missed cues on occasion.

Where there may have been uncertainty in others, I found peace in knowing that the show would be nothing short but entertaining for all who choose experience it for what it is. For me however, I had the job of finding something much more precious to help me endure each performance, because it was a demand and a half. Emotionally, mentally and most definitely physically! Don’t get me started on the first half, shattered thinking about it.

Anyway what I clung onto were the images in the final sequence of the film, images which I found to be the most haunting thing about the film. Those images provoked a feeling of otherness in me. And with that feeling stemmed the tools necessary to interrogate Ben, as a black man in that environment, desperate to have his voice heard. That’s something that I’ve felt and see more often now that the world’s much smaller. Even when there were performances where I was distant due to whatever distraction, what brought me back was the otherness, the isolation and the desire to be heard. Regardless of how the rest of the show felt for me, what remained paramount was the cogent cry for humanity in the closing moments of the play.

Morgan Bailey

April 2020

Rehearsal photograph by Ed Waring

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