Not Long Now – Dare you take part in the zombie apocalypse?

You’ve probably watched Night of the Living Dead hundreds of times and played through all the Resident Evil games only to wonder, “What would I do if I found myself caught up in a zombie apocalypse?” Well from next year, an exciting new project will be underway that could very well answer that question and scare the hell out of you in the process. 

Not Long Now is described as “an immersive theatre project,” where audience members won’t just be watching what happens during a zombie apocalypse; they will instead play a part. Following a group of survivors trapped inside a large building, they must work together to stay alive while an army of undead creatures fight to make their way inside.

The unique project is currently in the process of development and is headed by writer Sandy Nicholson. He was able to devote some time to answer a few questions about how he came up with the idea, the level of audience participation, as well as how you can get involved and help out.

Shalimar: For those that don’t know, explain a bit about yourself and Not Long Now.

Sandy: My name is Sandy Nicholson and I’m the head writer on Not Long Now, an immersive theatre project putting the audience in the centre of the zombie apocalypse. The building will house several groups of survivors in different rooms and on different floors, and each of those groups will have their own plot to act out. The audience can wander the building and choose who they want to accompany when the horrors outside start to seep in. We’ll be working hard to create an atmosphere in which you never feel safe as you try to help your group survive the onslaught of the undead, and the unpredictability of the other survivors.

Shalimar: How did the idea for Not Long Now come about? And why the name ‘Not Long Now’?

Sandy: A few years ago I came up with an idea to write a stage play at the end of which the audience would be encouraged to swarm onto the stage as they were the zombies, killing the characters on stage. I run a writing group in Central London and when I told them the idea one of the members came up with the idea of setting the play in a house and from there it all clicked. It took me a while to actually attempt to put it on, but I found a team and here we are now. The name came about because it’s such a flippant thing to say in the face of the apocalypse. More than that though, it’s just short, matter of fact and fun to say, and for an idea we want people to talk about that seemed essential.

Shalimar: With zombies proving to be ever popular in films and video games, were there any in particular that inspired or had an influence on this project?

Spanish Horror Film [Rec]

Sandy: There are all sorts of great ones, but for me there are two that definitely stand out with their influence on how I wanted the project to end up looking. The first is [Rec], a Spanish zombie film in which a news crew are trapped in a quarantined building as the zombie virus spreads. The film is tense and terrifying, and creates its atmosphere both from fantastic ideas and shots and from the utterly relentless nature of the action. The characters are never safe for more than 30 seconds, and it escalates wonderfully to a final scene that broke me like bad biscuits. It’s this idea of relentlessness that I wanted to take through to Not Long Now, but combining it with the unimaginable weirdness of a Canadian film called Pontypool. The less I say about that the more you’ll enjoy the film, but it’s completely bizarre. I’d love to be able to recreate the air of constant unease created by either of these films, and then put the audience right in the middle of it.

Shalimar: I understand that the project is still in its early stages, but how involved will the audience be with what’s happening? How deep will the level of interactivity be?

Sandy: Well much of that will be down to how the writers want to handle their particular section. Each band of survivors will have their own writer, and they’ll get to decide what happens to their characters, and this includes the level of audience participation. Personally though with the strand I’ll be running I want there to be plenty of interaction. There will be a script and plot to follow, but the audience will be forced to take part in the action, opening doors, escaping. At one point they will find themselves in a pitch-black room, arguing and trying to figure out how to escape, but members of the audiences holding the torches, choosing who to focus on and how to react to the noises around them. Some writers may choose to leave much to improvisation, or find other ways to get the audience involved. I’m excited to see what the team we eventually choose will come up with.

Shalimar: Have you narrowed down a possible location and possible scenarios?

Sandy: We’ve got several options that we’re particularly interested in but still on the lookout for other potential venues. We’re looking for large empty buildings with multiple floors, big enough so that you’d never be sure you were alone there but labyrinthine and with plenty of dark corners. As for scenarios, I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas for my part in the plot, but more than that I’m looking forward to exploring ideas with the other writers and see if we can really do something impressively unpredictable.

Shalimar: Given the immersive nature of the project, with the exception of a real zombie turning up, have you foreseen any safeguards that might have to be put in place in case things were to get out of hand?

Sandy: We have had to be careful to ensure things don’t get dangerous. There will be health and safety people around the building to ensure nothing goes wrong, acting either as survivors, zombies, corpses or something in-between so as not to break the atmosphere. This will become part of the fun of it. The bodies in the corner might be there to keep control of the situation, or they might be zombie actors ready to chase if you make too much noise. There’s no way to know.

Shalimar: Now, you’re looking for up to eight writers to help with this project, and they’re required to submit a script that shows off their writing style. What advice can you give to anyone wanting to stand out?

Sandy: Yes indeed! As each band of survivors will have their own writer, this gives us a great opportunity to spotlight new writing talent. Writers interested in taking part should submit a sample of their writing. Though it doesn’t have to be zombie themed, horror or even a piece of theatre, we do suggest that you try to surprise us. Scare us, baffle us, make us care about your characters, but mostly surprise us. We would rather see a good writer trying something new than an immaculately put together script on a well-worn subject.

So there you have it! Do you have the guts to script how a group of survivors will tackle an onslaught of zombies? Or in your scenario, maybe they won’t? There’s not long left to submit, with the deadline on September 3rd, so e-mail your work, as well as a short paragraph explaining a bit about yourself to submissions@notlongnow.eu. On the other hand, maybe you’re a performer that has a taste for brains and would prefer to volunteer? If you wish to get involved as a zombie, survivor or a plant in the audience, or even help out with design and photography, then contact volunteer@notlongnow.eu.

Not Long Now is set to take place in London in 2013. If you want to keep an eye on the event’s progress then you can visit the Facebook page, or follow along on Twitter.

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