Who? Jon Gracey
What? Werewolf: Live
Where? Underbelly, Cowgate (venue 61)
Are you prepared for what this year’s Edinburgh Fringe has in store for you?
… Kind of?? I’ve been doing the Fringe for many years (with sketch group The Beta Males), but I’ve not been up as a performer since 2013, so while I know the general shape of things, I feel like I’m coming back to a lot of unknowns and practically limitless chances to tit things up. That said, I’m super excited to get back into the mix and experience the heady rush that is being immersed in so much great and cool art for a month. Also burgers.
What is the premise of your Edinburgh show this year?
Werewolf: Live is a theatrical comedy game show where the audience come up on stage and fight for their lives, trying to figure out who among them are innocent and who are evil werewolves (based on roles they are assigned at random). I tell the story, sass them the appropriate amount and make sure everything is running smoothly. It’s a late-night, raucous, immersive dose of carefully choreographed chaos and it’s gonna be an absolute blast.
What was the biggest obstacle you face(d) while putting this show together?
I’ve actually been working on this show on and off since late 2014. We were at a conference for freelancers and there were people hailing from all over the world who needed something to do in the evening, so I pulled my shirt over my head, got some candles out and did the embryonic version of what became Werewolf: Live.
It’s actually a very light show to do in terms of props and setup, as most of it comes from me and the players. The hardest thing has been taking it from an intimate environment where everyone was playing to the player/spectator vibe we have now – as a gamer I was convinced everyone would want to be up on stage playing, but so many people have got in touch saying how much they love watching and seeing how people react. So I think the big challenge was having the confidence to move it from small intimate rooms to larger theatres, and trusting that people would dig it. That was really scary and hard.
Who would most enjoy your show?
God, this is going to sound like such a cop-out, but pretty much everyone. I’ve run werewolf games for my 88-year-old grandparents at Christmas, I’ve done it at business conferences, for companies as part of corporate team building, in theatres, in living rooms, at camp sites, on stag dos, for dinner parties, all over the world from Bali to Barcelona. I think people who like games will naturally lean towards it, but honestly the thrill for me comes from people who don’t game that much realising how simple the rules are (goal: figure out who’s lying) and then using their real-life skills of deduction and getting stuck in to the story and the fun.
So soz, but EVERYONE. Unless you hate werewolves. But then my friend Kit really, really hates werewolves (she blames seeing Michael Jackson’s Thriller video at a young age) and she loves the show. So, everyone.
Do you have any other Edinburgh show recommendations?
Well I’d be remiss not to plug the charity Werewolf: Live show we’re doing on 21st August, where famous comedians play the game instead of the audience. We’re in the big purple cow, and we’ve got amazing folks like Marcus Brigstocke, Nish Kumar and Alex Edelman (with loads more great names to be announced soon) on board. I can’t wait! All proceeds are going to Kidney Research UK, which is a charity that means a huge amount to me, as my Dad’s had kidney troubles most of his life and does loads of work with them. So that’ll be great! And terrifying. But great!
I’ve also written a play – sorry, this is very self-indulgent – called Courtroom Play: A Courtroom Play. It’s a comedy courtroom drama with an amazing line-up of comedians and actors, including Thom Tuck, Emily Lloyd-Saini, Mandy Dassa and Lucy Farrett and it’s really good! Heartwarming and hilarious, think Legally Blonde meets Hot Fuzz. Plus it’s new writing! Gotta support that new writing.
Now that I’ve finally stopped talking about myself, you should definitely check out shows by former Beta Males Richard Soames and John Henry Falle, as they’re some of the best and funniest nerds I know. Richard Soames: Let’s Make A Movie is an attempt to make an entire Hollywood blockbuster in an hour. No idea how that’s going to work, but he has gorgeous eyes and is great. John Henry Falle as The Story Beast is doing 2 shows: This Is Bardcore and Myths, Monsters & Mayhem.
On a less nepotistic note, the excellent Rob Carter has arguably the best title of any show this year, with I Spy With My Little Eye Something Beginning With Why Have You Been Sleeping With My Wife: A Play By Christopher Bliss. Very excited to see that.
Stevie Martin is doing her debut solo hour (having crushed it with brill sketch group Massive Dad) which is going to be incredible, and Kieran Hodgson always does amazing things, and his show this year, ’75 – which is going to grapple with Europe/Brexit – sounds equal parts brave and wonderful.
What is your favourite thing about Edinburgh as a city?
The architecture gets me every time, and always instils a sense of calm as I walk around and realise how long everything’s been around, and how comparatively irrelevant literally everything I’m doing is. Also the meadows are wondrous and green and are a joy to walk across, whether you’re marching into town to do battle with the hordes or coming home for a nice cup of tea.
What are your plans for after the festival?
I’m a big video games boy, and all this Edinburgh prep has frankly really cut into my gaming time. My partner is going back to Sydney, her home town, for a while, and I’ll either go with her, or go really deep into a lovely open world game. Either sounds fabulous, to be honest.