Zombie show based on cult film pulled from Hackney Empire after legal threats

Chas Burns as Shaun and Ross Millward as Ed in Shaun of the Dead Live. Picture: Kim Carter

Chas Burns as Shaun and Ross Millward as Ed in Shaun of the Dead Live. Picture: Kim Carter - Credit: Archant

A stage show based on one of the greatest horror-comedy movies of all times, Shaun of The Dead, was axed from the Hackney Empire at the last minute because of a legal dispute.

The cult film, which sees two Crouch End slackers – played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – become zombie slayers during a rising of the undead, was to have made its London stage debut at the Empire in Mare Street on Friday.

Audience members were to have been provided with a “zombie survival kit” so they could join in with classic scenes, which include its hapless protagonists fending off zombies with cricket bats and vinyl records.

But the performance from Almost Legal Productions, which has been touring the country since last year, was pulled with just days’ notice when Universal Pictures sent a letter threatening to sue should the zom-rom-com go ahead.

The group claims they were originally given permission from Universal via Pegg to stage the production and that it was going to supply a “gratis licence”, so they continued touring “in good faith”.

But the decision was apparently revoked over marketing material suggesting the stage version had been endorsed by writers Pegg and Edgar Wright.

The producers of the stage show said: “We’re so sorry that this has happened. Many of us working on the show from behind the scenes and out stage front are devastated.

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“Tears have been shed by many of us. Everyone is pretty low right now – it’s like losing a relative.

“Despite the ‘early doors’ review from the Telegraph, the stage show had become so much more than the film ever was and the audience above all made it their own.

“It is very sad news for everyone as it was looking to be a sell-out at Hackney.”

Chas Burns, who plays Shaun in the show told the Gazette that the production had hoped to emulate classics like The Rocky Horror Show and develop a loyal live following.

“Rocky Horror has happened like this organically – it started out as a stage show and people started shouting things and being involved,” he said.

Universal Pictures declined to comment.

Two years ago another theatre show – which had also been billed by critics to be the “edgiest production since The Rocky Horror Show”, was also axed from the Empire at the 11th hour due to “unforeseen financial difficulties”.