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vancouverplays review


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— Production poster

by Andy Thompson
The Virtual Stage
Oct. 1–Nov.3
From $25 at

Staged in a secret location that turns out to be Granville Island (the secrecy part is part of the silliness), The Zombie Syndrome (On Death Island) is campy Hallowe’en fare with several requisites for full participation.

1. Bring an up-to-date cell phone.
2. Have the attention span of a twelve-year-old.
3. Sign a ludicrous legal agreement that specifies you accept any and all risks incurred while participating in the show.

One hopes it was an over-zealous lawyer from the Granville Island Trust or CMHC’s Granville Island office that forced the producers of The Zombie Syndrome to ensure all patrons sign a completely serious waiver that does not give any indication as to what the risks might be. (When actors agree to accept risks involved in a production, the nature of those risks is spelled out in the contract.)

It turns out a strobe light is used. Well, geez, just say so...

The greatest risk should be spelled out: The Zombie Syndrome is neither scary nor funny. The actors adopt a one-dimensional, faux military zeal with dialogue that is often shouted to create theatrical urgency for the audience who are asked to help the Canadian military halt the zombie invasion. Audience members are given tiny roles to play at about ten different locations.

There is a plot of sorts, but the three main progenitors of the Zombie plague are only described on brief bios given to one of the audience members. So the audience obediently troops around—or rides golf carts— to various low-budget sets, occasionally shining a pair of flashlights into the eyes of incoherent zombies who are feckless to an extreme.

Only the humourlessness is disturbing. If this smartphone-enabled show wants to succeed as “a thrill-seeking adventure,” it needs to be pitched to a much younger demographic. Clean up the unnecessarily coarse language in a few spots and makes some money with it; don’t switch gears into naturalism for a final scene with sex and violence and expect anyone to take that climax seriously.

The background plot is never adequately incorporated, there is no wit to the dialogue and the staging is just plain hokey. But, hey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with juvenile hijinks, especially at Hallowe’en, and a theatre company seeking a funding niche by incorporating “new technologies” is a good survival tactic. Go if you want mere novelty and diversion. Laugh about it the following day.

A previous version of the show in 2012 was nominated for two Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards: the Critics' Choice Innovation Award and Significant Artistic Achievement for 'Outstanding Logistical and Technical Innovation.'

Tickets are available online only. Visit

-- Paul Durras
















Jerry Wasserman