Why Silo Theatre's take on Night of the Living Dead hopes to reanimate audiences' love for live cinema

Ever looked around your kitchen, picked up a utensil and started making sounds? 

Well, if you've smacked the spoons together, or found a creative way to use a spatula, you could be potentially interested in becoming a foley artist. 

For the uninitiated, the art of foley is the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to films, videos, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. Think Orson Welles' live radio performance of War of the Worlds in 1938 which saw millions believe aliens had indeed landed in the US. 

If you're around Auckland until November 12, you can see the skill in action as Silo Theatre presents its live take on the classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead, with performers creating the movie's soundtrack as it unspools on the big screen behind them. 

Composer and self-confessed "film nerd" Leon Radojkovic told Newshub the thrill of creating the show comes down to looking at the everyday objects around him in a different light. 

"There's a lot of fun experimentation. Often I have an idea of what I think will work. Sometimes that's right, sometimes that's wrong. What I'm always trying to look for is something that makes the correct sound but isn't the correct object, you know? For example, what can an eggbeater be? We've got an eggbeater and in this, it has multi-functions - it's a character handling a shotgun, it's a petrol pump," he laughed. 

While it's not the first time Silo Theatre has attempted this live cinema outing, having done it with the likes of Little Shop of Horrors and Carnival of Souls, Radojkovic said diving into the horror genre has provided a set of unique challenges - and some cunning solutions. 

"Probably the most fun with this is figuring out gore effects, you know, like punching effects, intestines getting ripped out of characters, things like that, which we've never done before. And that's been really a blast." 

George Romero's movie Night of the Living Dead celebrated its 55th anniversary in October, with the seminal film - which sees seven people trapped in a farmhouse and under siege from the undead - being hailed as kickstarting the zombie genre. 

As far as Radojkovic was concerned, it was an obvious choice - and what it offered for a live experience was too delicious to refuse, thanks to parallels with today's society. 

The live show runs till November 12.
The live show runs till November 12. Photo credit: Supplied - Andi Crown

"We've never done a horror before. We've never done a film with a lot of action. So that's also a fun thing to add to the mix. I think it's a really great work and I think a lot of the themes that it deals with around paranoia, mistrust, fear of the other, the inability to work together to solve external threats.  

"Obviously there's other things around hierarchy and gender hierarchy and generational hierarchy and them looming large, but never actually spoken in the film - racial hierarchies. I think all of these things are still really relevant today, sadly." 

Previous live cinema outings have seen a multitude of actors performing the mix of dialogue, sound effects and action. But Radojkovic told Newshub this latest has seen them strip it back to basics. 

"We were sort of inventing the format for ourselves as we went along, so it was daunting. With this production, a fourth one, we've really turned it into an almost performance challenge in that we've only got two performers, where in the past we had up to I think about 15. 

"So, the first two shows we had a live band with about seven or eight people, including myself. We had a dedicated foley artist in a soundproof booth, so he's doing all the sound effects from like, you know, banal stuff like picking up cups of tea through to the sound of a violent axe murder. Then we had four actors all performing the dialogue live, whereas in this production we only had two people doing all of those things." 

The execution of the live cinema experience harks back to days of radio plays, where productions would show off their inventiveness in creating an aural experience to engage listeners who only had transistor radios to keep them entertained. 

Just two performers will do all the dialogue and sound effects.
Just two performers will do all the dialogue and sound effects. Photo credit: Supplied - Andi Crown

This simpler past is something Radojkovic lamented as his time with Newshub drew to a close. 

"I feel like a lot of sound design these days in cinema is more about buying pre-recorded sampled sounds and just inserting them. There is a sameness to a lot of the kind of audio worlds that you will hear, particularly if you're thinking in terms of Hollywood films. They don't necessarily have a lot of their own character. Something has been lost in that organic making process which doesn't quite deliver something wonderful and intangible." 

Radojkovic said he hoped this run at Auckland's iconic Hollywood Theatre could inspire a new generation of creative minds. 

"I almost think that a lot of art could benefit from looking backwards a little bit more. I think across art in general, we have perhaps lost some of our history - unfortunately to our own detriment." 

Silo Theatre's Live Cinema - Night of the Living Dead continues in Auckland until November 12.