Actually, they’re already here. It has certainly escaped this writer’s attention, but apparently the world has become overrun by famished, murderous, brain-hungry zombies. Fortunately, N3rd.Girl (real name: Jen Coles) has put together a how-to manual for surviving the zombie attack, in cabaret form. N3rd.Girl vs The Zombie Apocalypse is a rollicking cabaret, featuring songs from artists as diverse as Weird Al Yankovic and Disney. Coles talks the audience through the various facets of zombie attack, and when the spoken word fails her, she sings.

“I cover everything from guns to zombie relationships, the history of the outbreak to home defence tips,” Coles,22, explains. A self-proclaimed “zombie expert”, her mission is to “prepare your mind and body for survival.”

This is Coles’ debut show, although she cut her teeth in amateur musicals ranging from Sweeney Todd to Fiddler on the Roof. “I wanted to construct something that was, in essence, a ‘mini-musical’,” she explains. She chose the format of cabaret because “the intimacy of cabaret is  something I really wanted to have, since the audience and I are the last human beings alive, and we need to work together.”

The idea had its genesis in the fifteen-minute show she performed as part of a cabaret course, which featured the same character. “My show was about N3rd.Girl saving the blogiverse,” Coles says. “But I decided it was too short a story to expand into an hour and needed to be bigger. So I thought, why not zombies? It would be great for the character, and would let her grow.” She began writing in March this year, undertaking research by watching B-grade horror movies and taking note of the “stupid mistakes people always make,” and reading books such as The Zombie Survival Guide. She laughs, “I just buried myself in zombies! Well not literally, that’d be counterproductive…”

Coles works as a private singing teacher when she’s not dispensing with zombies in a suitably violent fashion, and says that the biggest challenge in putting together the show was the writing itself: “Writing was actually really difficult, because I was so worried about being funny that it prevented me from being funny.” She adds, “Once I started to focus on the character more and what the situation was, it became better. That was the only real obstacle I faced, just my own nerves.”

Since a certain Dr Frankenstein reanimated a human corpse in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Western popular culture has had a preoccupation with the walking dead, with the genre enjoying a resurrection (if you’ll pardon the pun) with George A. Romero’s seminal 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and its many sequels and impostors. In the 2000s, the genre again rose from the grave (oh, stop) with Danny Boyle’s kinetic 28 Days Later and recent offerings like The Crazies and the Australian indie flick The Tunnel. Most recently, zombie representations have moved away from horror and into parody, with movies such as Zombieland, Fido and Shaun of the Dead, and stage productions of Evil Dead the Musical and Nzambi Nzambi, which premiered at Melbourne’s 2008 Fringe Festival. It is into this new, humorous genre that Coles wishes to slot her cabaret. She says, “Movies like 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead were really popular, and that’s piqued people’s interest. Which is great, we need to be prepared, ha!”

Of course, zombies are now such a part of our popular culture that it must be difficult to find a fresh take on the genre. She says that she chose a diverse selection of musical numbers to ensure that the show would feel original. She hopes it will appeal to a wide audience, although it wears its nerd credentials firmly on its sleeve. “I make a lot of horror and video game references, so a lot of [horror] fans would really enjoy it. I’m big on nerds, too, because I’m a huge nerd. But that doesn’t mean someone who has never seen a zombie movie or played a video game wouldn’t enjoy it!”

N3rd.Girl Vs The Zombie Apocalypse is on 11-14 August, at the Butterfly Club, 2-4 Bank St, South Melbourne. Ph 9690 2000. All shows 7pm, except for Sunday at 6pm.

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