Kiwi zombie show may go on to scare world

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 18:00 05/08/2014
Charlie Gates as zombie
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ZOMBIE LIFE: New Zealand performer John Burrows and Press reporter Charlie Gates after playing the undead in The Generation Of Z at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Generation of Z
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VISCERAL: The Generation of Z being performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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A New Zealand zombie thriller has proved such a hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that it could now tour the world.

The Generation of Z has sold out early shows at the biggest arts festival in the world and been lauded by British newspapers The Times, The Guardian and The Scotsman.

The New Zealand producer of the show, Charlie McDermott, is now in talks to take it to London for three months at the end of the year.

The show, which was developed in New Zealand by the Basement Theatre company over five years, is not so much a piece of theatre as a visceral experience.

The audience is immersed in a zombie-ravaged world, herded forcibly from one scenario to the next by the main characters, a group of no-nonsense soldiers holding the last frontier against the undead horde.

Staged in a windowless concrete car park in Edinburgh, the show is claustrophobic, intense and scary. It feels like a video game come to life.

McDermott developed the show through various iterations staged in Auckland, Christchurch and the Big Day Out music festival.

He hopes the success at Edinburgh will attract investment to develop the show.

"It has been great and it is really paying off for us to take this risk.

"It is one of the hits of the festival. We will do it now. We will get the investment.''

The show is part of a New Zealand series of theatre and art featuring at six major festivals in Scotland this month with support from arts council Creative New Zealand. There are about a dozen New Zealand shows included in the special season at the Fringe festival this year.

McDermott said the show was designed to convert a younger audience to theatre.

"We didn't want it to be a staid, rare art form. We are giving young people an arts experience when they don't realise they are having one.

''The young audiences are not coming to theatre, so we are building audiences for the future. Maybe theatre isn't old and stale and boring. It is exciting.''

The show is inspired by video games, particularly survival horror game The Last of Us.

"We have played every single zombie game under the sun and The Last of Us was the best.

"That is an amazing game. We are huge geeks and we are game fanboys.

"I grew up with Final Fantasy and Halo."

McDermott said he feels vindicated by the Edinburgh success after five years of development.

"It feels amazing after all this work and all the ups and downs."

"We have proved it can work. It is sheer bloody mindedness. I won't stop.''

MY NIGHT AS THE LIVING DEAD

There is a red shipping container on a cobbled street in Edinburgh.

The door is open, so I lean in and discover two people applying makeup to volunteers.

"Hello, I've come to be a zombie,'' I say.

I'm invited in and sit in front of a makeup artist.

"How are you without your glasses?'' he asks.

We discuss whether zombies wear glasses and decide they don't. So, tonight, I shall be a short-sighted zombie.

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I am here to join the local volunteers that make up the zombie horde in The Generation of Z.

After the makeup I ask if I need blood marks on my clothes.

"Oh, there will be blood,'' the makeup artist replies.

He was right. There was blood. Or glycerine with red food colouring to be more accurate. It is flecked across my face and clothes to complete my zombie look.

After a warm up, where we are encouraged to discover our own inner zombie, we assemble in another shipping container and wait.

On our cue, we lurch out to terrify the audience.

What followed was a sometimes confusing, but exhilarating, dash around a car park. We banged on doors, groaned behind walls and chased people down corridors. You know, zombie stuff.

It was fun to feel part of a little zombie community for a while. There was a real camaraderie among the undead in that shipping container.

After the show, I cleaned off most of the makeup with a wet wipe and hailed a cab.

"What have you been up to?" asked the taxi driver.

"I've just been a zombie.''

"Oh,'' he replied.

"I wouldn't normally pick up a zombie in Edinburgh at this time of night."

- The Press

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