EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: WEREWOLF: LIVE, Underbelly, Bristo Square
In Werewolf: Live, Jon Gracey leads a team of comedians through several rounds of mystery and intrigue with hilarious results.
A popular party game, also commonly known to drama game aficionados as Mafia, the premise of Werewolf is fairly simple. Players are assigned roles, either werewolf or villager. Each group is trying to survive by figuring out the roles of others and eliminating the opposing group.
At "night", players close their eyes, the werewolves awake and select a victim to die. The players spend the day phase of the game nominating and voting on suspected werewolves to be executed via mob justice. With protests of innocence quickly descending into accusations and betrayal of other players, it's something akin to The Crucible without the McCarthyism undertones.
Unlike many panel shows on the Fringe, Werewolf: Live does not rest on the idea that simply adding comedians will automatically make something funny. It might not come as too great a shock that a pointlessly competitive game with an insistence on self-preservation seems to chime well with a group of stand-up comics, as they attempt to improvise arguments to convince each other. Indeed, plenty of humour stems from their outright failures on this score.
Gracey is an excellent host, getting the room onside immediately with plenty of good audience interaction, riffing on the antics of his players, and keeping the show moving along with evidently practised ease.
For the first round, the audience have suspense created by being asked to close their eyes, with the resulting amusement of trying to solve the game along with the players. Afterwards, the audience are able to watch the whole game, leading to delicious dramatic irony from some of the ploys comics try on each other.
Games of Werewolf can vary wildly in their length depending on the success of the players and the vehemence of arguments, but this show has been carefully thought out to work within an hour. Luckily, despite seven different comedians onstage in addition to Gracey, it manages not to be unwieldy, with each having their moment to shine thanks to the well-thought out format.
Werewolf: Live is a well-executed, fast-paced showcase of its guest comedians in a thoughtfully controlled but amusingly chaotic environment. Undoubtedly, it will leave you howling with laughter.