Who can you trust? Make the wrong choices and you will end up dead!
While Werewolves is in the theatre section of the Fringe brochure, it is better described as an interactive role-playing experience, with the audience involved as participants throughout, striving to stay alive.
This production is a well-presented take on the game Werewolf, sometimes known as Mafia, re-imagined as an evening’s entertainment. Entering a basement at Summerhall, the small audience (limited to 20) is greeted by host Nick Phillips, an imposing figure somewhat reminiscent of an undertaker.
Phillips introduces us to the concept for the evening: the town of Miller’s Hollow is being plagued by a pack of werewolves, and we are the townspeople who must try to survive by slaying the beasts hidden amongst us.
Seated in a circle of chairs, each audience member is given a card, revealing the character you will play through the game. You could be an unsuspecting villager, a seer, a witch, or of course one of the eponymous beasts who awake each night to claim another victim.
During the day, the identities of anyone who has died at night are revealed and the villagers debate their suspicions before nominating a suspected werewolf to kill. As characters are killed off, they are offered “a glass of bubbly” and the opportunity to watch the rest of the game as it plays out.
Surrounded by strangers, the tension mounts as alliances form and mistrust festers. Participants turn on each other on the slightest suspicion – think The Crucible, only you are among the accused – while those already dead can only silently despair at the mistakes being made.
The game provides the framework, but the drama comes from interactions with fellow participants, and by the end of the evening, complete strangers were happily interacting and even hugging to apologise for inadvertent deaths.
It is something of a difficult show to review by its nature, as not only will every evening be different, but everyone in the group will have a slightly different experience. I was lucky enough to make it to nearly the end of the game in one piece, but someone who died right at the outset may have found it somewhat less tense, or equally may have been amused by the increasing paranoia of the rest of the group.
Werewolves has serious potential to become a late-night cult hit, aided by the very sensible decision to allow games to reach their conclusion regardless of suggested runtime. With a longer run, it is the sort of Fringe experience that would be quite likely to gain a repeat audience.
Werewolves has now finished its run.
★★★★ By Amy Hanson, Broadway World UK | 28 August