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How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse
Published on Monday, 16 August 2010

4 stars

Zoo Southside (venue website)
6 - 29 Aug (not 17, 24), 7:45pm (8:45pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

When the inevitable zombie apocalypse occurs, will you be ready?  Will you know how to survive?  Will you know which loved ones to sacrifice?  These are the crucial questions addressed by Dr Dale Seslick and his team of experts in this vital seminar.

How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse returns to the Fringe with a brand-new show.  The FringeGuru archive tells that I reviewed last year's performance, and I was not a fan that time; I'm therefore delighted to find that everything I liked last year has been retained, and everything I didn't like has either been reconsidered or reworked, with the addition of a whole lot of new and innovative material as well.  The result is a show that is now the comedy success it deserves to be.

Of the group of characters last time round, three are back.  Dr Dale returns, of course, and his dry televangelist-like manner handles the preposterous with a sincerity that drives the show forward.  Also back are researcher Judy (she's been doing experiments on fat people, we learn) and craggy-faced survivalist Donald (the man for the job because “he's survived a very, very long time”).  One character has been cut, and I don't know if the cast changes were by accident or design, but the reduced lineup helps keep things moving along.  The final role, that of simpleton schlock horror fan Tristen, has been recast and rewritten – and while he still acts as an outlet for comic absurdity, he does so as part of a rounded performance by the whole team.

The cast begins engaging with the crowd early, and, in a neat touch, prepares name badges for everyone in the line outside.  These will become important later on because this year, it's a simulation of the fight for survival – only one member of the audience can survive.  The simulation gives a strong focus to proceedings, and the routines benefit from this outcome-based approach ("can you survive?" rather than "how do you survive?"), keeping them zingy.  It also gives the show a life beyond the stage, as nightly survivors will compete in an onine competition to determine an overall victor.

The seminar has some good interactive elements, with the audience both reacting to and questioning the instructors.  The experts mix up some nicely scripted routines alongside sharp-witted banter with the crowd – I was particularly impressed by Dale's dismissal of a woman who complained that her rugby-playing vegan son could survive the zombie apocalypse (“Does he drink protein shakes?” the doctor enquired).

Like any improv group, the Apocalypse team are to some extent at the mercy of the crowd.  Thankfully, the sell-out audience I was part of (on Friday 13th, no less) seemed responsive and up for the task at hand.  I'm glad that I can now count myself among the Apocalypse admirers, and commend it for your interest.  For, while the survival of the human race is serious, it's also – I'm pleased to say – a laughing matter.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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