As I entered the site-specific, live (and extremely immersive) theatre experience known as The Generation of Z: Apocalypse, located between Whitechapel and Stepney Green tube stations, I was forced to recall a teenage obsession of mine: the video game franchise Resident Evil. As I wasted the days and nights away, spending far too many an hour bashing buttons on my PlayStation controller, I wondered what it would be like to actually be in that video game... and now I know! The Generation of Z is probably as close as you'll ever come to feeling a part of the Resident Evil video games... unless a real life zombie-fuelled Apocalypse does actually break out one day.
Congratulations to the show's creators Beth Allen, Benjamin Farry, Simon London, Charlie McDermott, and David Van Horn, for putting together a tremendously well-structured and well-executed show. The production values do not dissapoint, with the sets and lighting in each room masterfully conveying an authentic post-apocalyptic feel, as well as surprisingly realistic effects in the portrayal of violence. No expense has been spared when it comes to costumes, props and make-up either, with both the soldiers and zombies looking like they wouldn't seem out of place even wandering around a film set at Pinewood Studios. As with all immersive theatre though, this show is not for everybody. I would only recommend it to those who are willing to get involved. If you feel you are too cool to be shouted at by a South African soldier (whose character is reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens movie franchise) whilst you are on your knees with your hands behind your head, then this is pehaps not the show for you. If you are also terrible with your nerves or struggle with high blood pressure, then I would probably also give it a miss. However, if you love new experiences and can't get enough of adrenaline rushes, then there should be nothing stopping you from revelling in this live action horror story. The more you suspend your disbelief and let yourself be swept along with the action, the more you will get out of it.
The story is perhaps nothing new - anyone who has seen a zombie movie before will know exactly what they're getting themselves into - but its execution is what is so remarkable about this piece. The group starts off as a whole, and is then separated into two (depending on whether you take the right-hand or left-hand exit out of the first room) and we are then once again seperated after the next scene. So, we have four storylines happening simultaneously with each of the four groups being led by a protagonist soldier into different rooms. We stay in contact with the other groups throughout with the use of walkie-talkies and CCTV footage. Eventually, the four groups come back together towards the end of the show, as every single person is forced to run for their lives through a free-for-all zombie dash.
The storyline I followed (led by a very convincing Sergeant portrayed by Gareth Glenn) was not short of surprises, but I will refrain from any spoilers, just in case you decide to brave this spectacle and you end up following the same storyline I did. The ingenious factor of the immersive experience is you don't know who in your group is a guest and who is a plant, as actors break out from the group and launch into action without a moment's notice.
I applaud the crew and the cast of The Generation of Z for offering Londoners something completely unique and for exploring new ways of how to entertain. Yes, we love to sit lazily in our seats at a West End theatre and be sung at for a couple of hours, but we should also strive to explore new ways of enjoying live theatre.
The Generation of Z: Apocalypse is an exhilarating and intense theatrical experience, which will get your blood pumping faster than you can cry: "Zombie!"... And you even get to take a selfie with them too!