Presenting Interactive Theatre: Wasteland Experience


Presenting and acting jobs for ‘immersive’ theatrical events are a common sight now within the casting pages of the various trade publications, as the public seek adrenaline driven and creative ways to keep themselves entertained.  These immersive events give us excitement, creativity and escapism from our day to day and mundane routines. 

 Interactive theatrical events have been around for over twenty years and follow many storylines.  The audience is immersed fully in the story plot and will interact with the actors and storyline physically, mentally and verbally.  From the Pasaje del Terror at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, featuring the most famous characters from the horror genre to Disney’s Alien Encounter where a scientific experiment begins to go wrong., interactive theatrical events and presentations are stepping up their game and storylines are pushing the boundaries of traditional theatre

To find out more about interactive theatre and the role the presenters and actors play, we visited the ‘Wasteland Experience’ in Reading.  The ‘Wasteland Experience’ is an insane 2+ hour movie-like interactive show where YOU become a survivor in a post-apocalyptic Britain. Along with other survivors, you battle for your life across a 250,000 square foot abandoned shopping mall, full of combat and horror using the amazing iCombat weapon system.

 Each survivor in our team was asked to carry a gun along with a rechargeable magazine - we also engaged in a 10-minute training session so we were fully prepared to attack! With a number of terrifying characters lurking in the dark recesses of this disused shopping mall, the Wasteland Experience ultimately become a fight for survival where the team had to work closely together to combat the enemy. The realism of the scenes, the multiple special effects and the shocking energy with which the wasteland’s gruesome characters appeared out of nowhere left us trembling and breathless until the light of the exit appeared!

Within a few minutes of entering the experience, we were greeted by Holly our lead actor.  She was fully immersed in her role as a survivor and her mission was to gather survivors and lead us to a safe place. The mall is dark and humid with an eerie, dusty and post-apocalyptic feel to it.  Within minutes of entering the experience, a grenade explodes very near to our path and I scream out whilst running down the dark corridor in shock. The fight or flight experience is very much switched on!  

 All ‘survivors’ within the team seem to vary in how they respond to the different situations and characters.  Some people get straight into their role and others (like myself) are apprehensive and take a while to adapt to the plot and the decisions that need to be made.  Holly’s role as the lead has its challenges, she must provide a realistic performance as well as controlling a group of up to twenty people. She must ensure that everyone has been given the opportunity to make decisions on their survival, but also drive the story and encourage the audience to let themselves go and become part of the experience.

The public’s demand for realistic escapism experiences is increasing and there is a real market for this type of entertainment.  Lee Fields, Company Director and Creator says “Everyone behaves differently” when they experience one of our events. As diverse as our customer demographic is we also see a wide variety of psychology attending our events.  What will work for one person may not be as real for another. The trick is creating a narrative with cannot be broken in terms of story/logistics by the psychological variance, while we are fluid enough to flip all the buttons in peoples brains at the right time.  We keep the script as simple as possible so our actors/presenters can develop their own take and character. This gives us a more natural tone as the actors can really invest themselves into the role and therefore present a more realistic character”.  One of the lead actors, Holly Quick,  states “It is the age-old question that people ask themselves, how would you react to a situation, fight or flight (and some cases freeze!)  We offer the public the chance to answer that question, we provide scenarios with different outcomes depending on how they react. The public can enter a world where they can become the hero, or they can find out that actually, they are a bit of a coward! Every aspect of our world immerses the public so that they can truly live out unworldly scenarios!”

Holly’s role today as lead presenter and actor means she can flip between narrator, leader and character.  “Working for Zed Events in an immersive capacity for nearly 5 years has taught me that the easiest way to provide a realistic performance is to portray the situations as I would if they were truly happening. I ask myself how would I personally react to seeing such horrifying scenes; I would be terrified;  I would want to flee as quickly as possible. You then allow the audience to make the decision for you and it’s a natural progression from there” says Holly.

To find out more information about Wasteland Experience check out the website:

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