The UK has been destroyed by a deadly outbreak and nuclear explosions. The zombies have rotted away, but they have left behind a post-apocalyptic world.

Your day job is no more. Instead, what’s left of humanity lives on in an animalistic, hunter-gatherer state, spending each day scouring what remains for essentials.

Imagine The Walking Dead without the zombies and you will know exactly what to expect.

The abandoned shopping mall where you find yourself was once a safe, sprawling meeting point where those that value cooperation and fairness met to trade goods and services.

Only there aren’t many good people left. Faced with a lifetime of horror, many have slipped into insanity. Any attempts to reason or barter are now futile and will undoubtedly be met with violence.

You won’t meet many friendly faces here. If you do, chances are they will either be half-eaten or detached from their bodies.

Alone with your tribe of survivors and two battle-hardened guides, you’re dropped into a 250,000 square foot shopping mall in Reading, about 25 minutes outside of London. From there you must search for survivors, fight for your life and, most importantly, run until you reach safety.

Zed Events: Wasteland Experience

The Wasteland Experience is part immersive theatre performance, part horror game.

Visitors are handed a military-grade training rifle, supposedly used to train soldiers around the world. They looked and felt like real weapons. You hear the sound of it firing and feel the recoil. However, all that comes out of the end of it is compressed air. It’s as close to a real firearm as you can legally get, Zed Events boasts.

Lasting somewhere between one and two hours, you will spend most of the time sneaking around in total darkness, trying to avoid the bands of lunatics that are hunting you down. However, when the time calls for combat, your guide will encourage you to engage in shootouts.

I like to think that I singlehandedly took down everything that the Wasteland Experience threw at me, but in reality I’m not even sure that any of my bullets hit the target. Players wear laser-tag like headband that detect when you take a hit. Some enemies are too, but it’s impossible to know who got the kill when 10 others are shooting at the same target.

What I do know is that I survived the experience without needing to call for a medic. Given the situation that you find yourself in, this seems like the most important thing.

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If you’re entering the mall hoping for a game, then it might not be exactly what you’re expecting. However, as a performance Zed Events didn’t disappoint.

This is immersive theatre at its peak. Having a weapon throws you into the midst of the action and the flash grenades that are frequently thrown into the battlefield will have you diving back out of it. The storyline is engaging too, offering the perfect balance between fear and intrigue. You will constantly find yourself split between finding a corner to cry in or sneaking around it in search of the next rush.

Immersive theatre: A rising trend

Immersive theatre, where you act out a part in the play, moving around the stage, interacting with characters and performing tasks to move the story along, is becoming increasingly popular.

This is owed to the fact that these performances invite the audience to not only watch the story unfold, but to be a part of it.

Tom Salamon, the writer and director of the Goosebumps Alive immersive theatre experience, previously told Gizmodo:

“It’s entering a different universe that’s all encompassing for a few hours; surrounding, enveloping and engrossing.”

Of course, if feeling like you’re moments from death isn’t how you get your kick, there are plenty of experiences that offer something different, from murder mysteries to dream-like adventures.

Here are three other UK-based immersive theatre shows worth checking out:

For King and Country – Colab Factory

Take your seat in Parliament as a backbench MP and help to stop the UK from falling under Nazi control. As German forces begin their assault on London, the decisions that you and your fellow survivors make will alter the outcome of the war.

Price: From £29

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The Murder Express – Funicular

Take your seat on-board The Murder Express and tuck into a meal crafted by two MasterChef finalists. Your lavish meal will come with sides of murder as mysterious events play out around you.

Price: From £53

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The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Ensemble

Put on your best suit and travel back to the roaring twenties to revel at one of Jay Gatsby’s famed parties. The likes of Nick Carraway, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker are scattered around the room drinking the night away alongside you and you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Gatsby himself.

Price: From £29.50

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