Visiting an ex-Scare Addict who had recently moved to Reading, we couldn’t help but look into attending Zed Events’ Zombie Survival Experience, The Mall. They had availability at a decent time so we booked ourselves onto the event.
Two things set this experience apart from the pack. The first being its location, an abandoned shopping centre just off the high street. It’s a huge space and, cleverly, they withhold the recognisably mall areas for the show’s final act. Before then, you’re mostly navigating service corridors and offices.
The second stand out feature of this event is the duration. The advertising claims that it runs for two and a half hours which wasn’t the case when we visited but it definitely is a long show.
The premise of the experience is that we have volunteered ourselves as medical test subjects. Before we can learn too much about the experiments, all hell, inevitably, breaks loose. From here, armed personnel do their best to escort us from the building but it’s all in vain, unfortunately; the building has gone under lockdown in order to prevent any infection spreading. With guns handed to us, we begin a series of missions to circumvent the lockdown and get out before we become zombie chow.
And that’s it in a nutshell. The ensuing 90 or so minutes was part immersive theatre, part scavenger hunt with a pack of hungry zombies always at our heels! As the majority of this event is scripted, we won’t spoil any further details but there were some brilliant touches here. As well as the omnipresent zombies, there was a further character thrown into the proceedings who was just a fantastic and inspired addition. Our only regret was that we didn’t encounter him more often.
Speaking of characters, the ‘human’ cast were great – we especially loved Dr. West (guess where that came from!); the actor playing him sold his role with a performance that wasn’t overplayed and brought a real energy to the scenes where he was present!
The standout part of this event was that, at a certain point, you are no longer chaperoned through the building. You are left completely and utterly on your own (well, in as much as all the guests are left to wander the space themselves without any of the cast present). Here, our group of twenty split up into the groups that we’d arrived with. Our mission was to retrieve a certain object that was scattered throughout the area. This was by far our favourite section and led to a couple of amazing, unscripted sequences that felt like they could have been ripped from a movie.
In one moment, we entered an unlit shop unit searching for the object we needed. My torch had (conveniently!) failed, making our situation all the more dire. As we were searching the room, I heard something but dismissed it – after all, there were 18 other people somewhere on the floor shooting and running away from zombies! Finding the box that held our item, we got to work trying to open it. At that point, a zombie burst out of the darkness! A few quick shots put it down but, unfortunately, mere centimetres away from where the box was affixed to the wall! A tense minute or two ensued as we fumbled with the box with one eye on the zombie that we were certain was going to spring back to life at the most inopportune moment! We eventually opened the box and hightailed it out of that unit!
That stretch of the experience was by far the most fun and we’d love to see this expanded upon. After all, in the scripted sections, you know you’re ‘safe’. But in this final act, all bets were off!
If we were pushed to come up with negatives to this show, we’d have to address the pricing. It’s a lot of money. Now, considering everything that this experience provides; live performances, guns and a unique location, we wouldn’t expect it to be cheap but still feel like £120 is on the pricey side. Will you enjoy your time there? Absolutely. But there’s a niggling feeling that we could attend four or five events for the same price. And when you consider it in those terms, it’s definitely a lot.
The flipside is, when you think that we spent £40 to go through Apocalypse World Tour, it’s a great deal! And the event was at capacity when we went so it’s obviously popular and, to reiterate, the event ran brilliantly and provided a memorable experience. If they could get it below £100 (we have no idea if this is possible, can’t presume to know how much this thing costs to run), it’d be much less of an issue for us.
Tied into this and, again, minor niggle but the show definitely didn’t run the two and a half hours advertised. A drawn out photo opportunity commences once the event has reached its conclusion. Now, we watched the first group have multiple pictures taken before we decided that we were just going to bail. We left the venue, hit the high street quickly and then went back towards the station when we noticed that we were still 5 mins under the touted 2.5-hour running time. Add in a bit of admin which, admittedly, was in character and we reckon that the actual event was running at least half an hour shorter than advertised. To us, it’s not a huge thing because it reached its natural conclusion but it’s worth pointing out all the same.
The Mall - Zed Events
+ Fantastic location
+ The final act
+ Commitment to telling a story
You'll have a great time at this event. We were actually on the fence as to whether we would award this a five or four, mainly owing to the price of the experience. In the end, we met halfway! A definite recommend if funds will allow!
Ticket Price: £120
Address: Reading, RG1 1NR