Review: Apocalypse Z

Apocalypse Z
Aotea Square, Auckland, 15 April

It was raining when the zombie apocalypse began. The quarantined were led into an enclosure, water pouring off their sodden foreheads.

There were guns being pointed, people asking for their families, walky-talkies being jabbered into and talk of the end of the world.

It all felt very Hollywood. It felt like a film you had watched at some point in your life.
Part theme park part theatre, Apocalypse Z takes viewers on an interactive experience at the last bastion of human existence. 
The set, production and vision of the project are all impressive feats. Rusted containers, fencing, CCTV and marauding zombies create the audience's world. For more than an hour you are taken inside a makeshift headquarters to wait for evacuation.

Such grand projects, this one put on by Royale Productions, should be applauded. Long may it continue.

Some people attending might expect ghost train like experience with ghouls jumping out at every corner and at every chance. It is not that. It is better. It is immersive theatre and it is a worthy experiment. Apocalypse Z has a story.

All the actors did a great job of rolling with the inevitable fluctuations that comes with audience interaction.

You have seen these dilemmas before - the father having to decide the fate of their infected child, the team leader being struck down, the misinformation and the plan Bs turning into plan Ds.

But seeing it up close and being part of it is a novelty few would (hopefully)  have to experience. In that way it was nice to know the show wasn't real.

However, the set and production design were more than convincing. The audience watched the outside world unfold on CCTV cameras. You could see your fate coming to get you.  
In such situations, there is a nervous uncertainty that settles over the crowd. The teenagers make lame and annoying jokes - which is OK because in zombie movies the lame funny guys are the first to get the chop. Right?

But such inevitablilities highlight the difficulty of putting on such a show. It straddles a line - one that tries to convince its viewers that it is real but offering them little chance to have any meaningful input in the outcome of the drama.

It might have been more convincing if there were more "planted" actors in the audience's midst. It might have given them a feeling that they really had an impact on their fates - for better or worse. 
We all lived of course, which was great. But even after the audience applauded and the zombie threat seemed diverted, the teenagers and their lame jokes continued. That was a shame.

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