Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Zombie Syndrome

My colleague Jose Os reads instructions given to us by The Locksmith (played by Ryan McDonald) while other team-mates don surgical masks for the next part of the adventure. We had to figure out the clues to unlock the bike locker behind us - we were warned if we guessed wrong we would be shot! That motivated us to guess right. (Photo credit: David C. Jones)

Walking Dead tonight...Zombie Syndrome now!
by David C. Jones
Vancouver seems to have set a standard for site-specific theatre. Years of Vancouver’s insane rising property values also helped drive up the rent; local theatres and young artists had to take to the streets or storefronts, local parks, warehouses or under bridges to stage shows. These are mostly original creations - although one company performed A Streetcar Named Desire in and around a house with the audience sitting on the lawn.
The Virtual Stage – which specializes in multi-media presentations - has taken things a step further with The Zombie Syndrome. Here a small audience is taken on an adventure that will take them from one side of downtown to the other, on sky trains, into storage lockers, back alleys, and a van. 
When you book a ticket – advance only – you first receive an email that includes instructions with QR Codes – it helps if you have a smart phone – but if you don’t when you rendezvous with your group there will be someone who will. 

Once assembled a soldier arrives and you are processed (sign some legal waivers)

The QR codes reveal maps and videos that set the scene for your experience. A zombie plague has infected the world and a scientist has gone into hiding because government forces are trying to steal his serum to sell it for a profit.
A short time later a phone call arrives – you are given instructions about your rendezvous point where you will meet the rest of the team. Once assembled a soldier arrives and you are processed (sign some legal waivers) and then you learn that the missing professor wanted the best and brightest scientists (us) to help get his cure and keep it out of the hands of the profiteers. To throw them off he has set up a series of clues and riddles that as a group we will have to solve.
Then our first zombie attacks! Our soldier grabs him and while he struggles against her trying to get at us she explains that we are the brains and not the brawn. At no time are we to try to kill or hurt the zombies (my companion was crestfallen), that is for the professionals. She then snaps his neck and we are off.
What followed was a clue-ridden walking (and riding) journey that was often accompanied by a witty soundtrack. One of our team was put in charge of a bag that contained speakers so when QR codes reveal videos or messages we could all hear including some very fun music.
Off we went meeting allies like the Guardian and the Locksmith and a couple of Zombies in some very surprising places. One of the only negatives of the experience is when zombies appeared in public places during our journey the general public did not join in our terror and in one case berated us for stealing their busking place. C’mon Vancouver, zombies are here and a group of freshly minted scientists are trying to save you. Play along. 
Some of the clues had us scratching our heads a bit and at one point our audience-member's smart phone GPS navigator got us a little off course but when we were back on track there was a genuine sense of satisfaction.
The diverse cast of real actors was witty and wickedly caustic – chastising us coldly when we smirked and impressing on us that we needed to take this seriously.
There were some fun twists and plot turns - we had been warned we really should not trust anyone - and in the end, after surviving several attacks by marauding lone zombies, our team was faced with a riddle: one that would save all mankind from the zombie plague or doom it (or at least the ones who could not afford the suddenly costly cure).
I am sorry to report my group followed my logic and in the end we doomed the human race. We made the wrong choice. What was my decision? -  I won’t tell you what it was – you have to join your own team and solve your own puzzles and hopefully not doom the earth.
A uniquely fun adventure awaits you at The Zombie Syndrome. Good luck!

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