Warning: This article is unashamedly bloggy - for lack of a better term. The Dead Times is a factual site about the seriousness of Zombies. It is not a blog, zlog, glog, log or anything else with the "log" suffix. For this reason I wanted to avoid articles about what I did or what random subject I thought of - I endeavour to keep articles lengthy and meaningful to everyone beyond those refined souls who may, for some bizarre reason, be interested in my social life. However, this article (of slightly different source to my usual wonderful word-blasts) is definitely about Zombies and, just to reassure those doubting my sincerity, here's a photo of me with a Zombie.
© Tom Clark | My zelfie from Generation of Z
On Saturday 16th August, I made a decision. I decided to do away with my usual shyish "ahhh people" mentality and go to the Generation of Z event at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014. I booked tickets for the 21st of August at 23:30 - I was hoping for 21:00 but tickets for this event that came all the way from New Zealand sold quicker than the sprinter Zombies from 28 Days Later can run.
Generation of Z is hard to explain - the question of what it is has many different answers.
Basically the story is as follows; the Zombie apocalypse has begun and the undead (or infected - it's not clear whether these autonomous horrors are actually dead) are spreading across the Earth with lightning speed, turning the population into the same ravenous freaks that they have become. A fighting force has been created - the Armed Rescue Collaboration (ARC). The mission of this international force: to stop the demise of humanity and re-establish civilisation. It's a tall order and not everyone agrees with their martial-law methods, resulting in the formation of a terrorist group, the SCAVs. The unorganized SCAVs - presumably oblivious to the Zombie threat - take it upon themselves to disrupt ARC operations, apparently doing what is right for the common people.
For a small team of ARC soldiers dispatched to Edinburgh in Scotland, the current objective is to protect and defend a ARC installation. However, something went wrong and the Zombies got in, compromising the facility. That's where you come in, the civilian survivors of the apocalypse - yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen, in this heart-pounding event you do not sit on the sidelines, soaking in the action from safety behind "the fourth wall". In Generation of Z, you play a part (a fairly minor part, granted) in this hostile world of teeth and blood. In a group of 100 other Fringe goers you are thrust into the path of the failing ARC soldiers. From then on, the panicked gun-wielding soldiers have no choice but to take you and the rest of the civilians with them, inside the facility, in the hopes of getting the station back online and finding a suitable radio to call for evac - the unexpected appearance of a hundred survivors all looking for help scuppering their ideas of escape on foot. This puts them, and you, in direct contact with the Zombies - sprinting around in their hunt for food. The soldiers do their best to hold them back, firing guns, using harsh language (all Zombies hate unnecessary swearing), locking doors, planning movements and issuing orders - you will be called upon to help before the end though, in a world where humanity is crumbling, no one can simply sit back and hope for survival.
The soldiers will often task you with small objectives such as barricading a door before a dozen hungry mouths rush in or locating medicine. This gets you more involved in the make-believe world - you are very much part of the team in this interactive play, live action role play or whatever you want to call it.
Thursday the 21st has come and gone, so what did I think of the event that is, quite-honestly, like nothing else (except, of course, the two previous showings in New Zealand)? The answer to that is simple, it only needs one word. Bodacious.
It really was absolutely awesome - massive, massive kudos to the producers and all actors involved. The soldiers were sensationally believable and extremely well-acted. They swore and joked. They had a chain-of-command, a squad-leader and individual roles and characters. They reminded me of the marines in the legendary James Cameron film Aliens and coming from me, a huge fan of the Alien trilogy, that is probably the highest commendation possible.
The Zombies were also brilliant though not as central as I would have liked. With a hundred other people milling around (in different levels of anxiety), it was kind of difficult to see all the action. You could still guess what was going on from the reactions of the soldiers, the terrified screams of the other civilians and other audio cues - shaking gates or snapping jaws for example. You did not need to see the Zombie to know one was approaching and I liked this element. However, the hundred strong group size does pose some more serious problems. For example, there are plenty of other people to hunt for the medicines the soldiers ask for - plenty of people to 'hide' behind so you do not have to do anything. If you don't want to participate, you don't have to and, as a result, the whole experience will be much less enjoyable. It is also just less scary with so many warm bodies around you.
Going back to plus points, the "stage" of this interactive play, both the facility and outside were extremely well crafted. On the outside; broken metal fences warn where Zombies have got in and the cobbled streets of Edinburgh add to the sense of realism. On the inside; the developers have done an amazing job of creating a building complex that actually looks like it was lived and worked in, now run-down and abandoned. In the med-bay, crazed writing from previous terrified survivors littered the walls, empty medicine boxes occupied the shelves and fake blood signalled former tragedy. It looked fantastic and worryingly like the labs used to quarantine, and attempt to treat, Ebola victims. I would have loved some bodies on the floor or fake bullet-holes to highlight the earlier compromising of the facility by Zombies.
I would definitely recommend the Generation of Z event - unfortunately, all showings at the Edinburgh Fringe are over. If you can attend next year or there is a similar event from the same team at Royale Productions - I really hope they'll be back - then please, please go. Participate, psyche yourself up, believe you are where they say you are. You will not regret it.
Adding one suggestion of my own for any follow-up outings, one that I think would be so totally awesome it really must be considered is a slow-moving Zombie event. Slow-moving Zombies provide bucket-loads of tension, more than when fast-moving sprinters are used - being able to see the horror slowly close around you would be a hugely nerve-racking thrillride. An experience similar to World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 would be epic - perhaps limited to the scene where the Zombies get into the gated military compound at the start. Imagine running round a maze-like building, desperate for a way out, moans and dragging sounds indicating the approach of the undead, soldiers firing and covering doorways, Zombies staggering into hallways you are being lead down and the ensuing panic - I think this would be absolutely radical.
Side note: Apparently, Dara Ó Briain (star of Three Men in a Boat and stand-up comedian) was at Generation of Z, surviving the Zombies at the same time as me. I didn't get to meet him and I really doubt he is going to read these words - still cool though.
Of course, my whole evening at the Edinburgh Fringe was not entirely consumed by Generation of Z. I also attended the two Zombie Science lectures by Dr. Austin from the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies - ZITS for short. Brain of the Dead and Worst Case Scenario were both very amusing and involved a fair amount of interaction from the audience. There was some useful factual information included amoungst the gags such as the various sections of the brain, the proper hand washing method (sexed up with comedic names for stages) and why Zombies walk stiffly and erratically. I did enjoy them, the second more than the first, but Generation of Z was definitely the highlight of the evening. I am, however, definitely looking forward to the promised next lecture from ZITS, debating the very important question of; if a Zombie outbreak occurred in Vegas, would it stay in Vegas?
On Thursday August 21st I attended Generation of Z at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014. Inside is my story - both what the event actually was and what I thought of it (hint: I really liked it). Plus, as a bonus to all you The Dead Times fans, you get to see a photo of me standing beside a Zombie in my very own zelfie.