Bloomsbury Studio, Euston, London, 18/11/2019.
I knew nothing about Werewolf: Live going in except that the format had recently been sold to a tv company and so it’ll become extremely well known very soon, and that tonight’s show was set to feature Jordan Brookes, Harriet Kemsley, Bobby Mair, Allison Spittle, Tez Ilyas, Alex Edelman and Elf Lyons. I can see it working quite well on tv too, especially if carefully edited, but tonight it was only a quite good show.
Hosted by the show’s creator Jon Gracey the set up is that the comedians are given a card at random, with five of them being innocent villagers, and two of them werewolves. Then there’s a selection of rounds where either the comedians get to nominate someone as a possible werewolf – that person then has to try to defend themselves and if they fail they are put to death whether they’re innocent or not – or the werewolves get to choose who they want to kill. At the end either the villagers win or the werewolves kill everyone, and there are three games played across the hour.
Greacy’s a great host and he sets the scene well, creating a foreboding yet still funny atmosphere. The show takes place in the small German town of Mumsafelching (with the audience deciding the name of the town with each performance, hence the dodgy aspect of such a name on this occasion) and each time begins with the horrendous death of the town mayor. Then the comedians get to accuse each other of being a hairy bitey bastard and at the end of each round we we find out whether they were or not.
During the first game the majority of the comedians were a little subdued and it took a little while for them to find their feet, but Bobby Mair showed himself to be the most valuable player of the night early on with a completely unfounded but very funny attack on Alex Edelman, while Harriet Kemsley provided a good few laughs by being killed off early on but refusing to stay silent as per the rules. On the minus side recent Edinburgh Award winner Jordan Brookes was also killed (and so silenced) early on in the game too, which is a downside of the format as at that point he was making me laugh a lot.
During the second and third games everyone became a lot more involved and animated, which was sometimes a positive aspect – like when Elf Lyons reacted angrily to being killed – and some times a negative part of the game as it can descend in to a lot of loud arguments. Also given that there are seven strong personalities taking part (or at least that was the case tonight) inevitably a couple of the comics won’t get the chance to shine, and that was definitely the case with Allison Spittle and Alex Edelman, and to a certain extent Jordan Brookes as he kept on being killed off early on, though he did at least get the chance to do more in the third game which despite being the shortest was my favourite due to this.
In general it’s a show which is mostly a lot of fun but one which sometimes can descend in to being a bunch of comedians shouting at each other, and perhaps the format could be changed a little so that this aspect could be reined in a little, I certainly imagine that will be the case when it makes it on to tv. It’s also going to vary depending on who the comedians are each night, but I can never imagine it being disappointing, and it’s certainly an original and inventive idea which at times generated a lot of laughter.