REVIEW: Werewolf (Binge Culture)

by Tim George

Created by Binge Culture (Joel Baxendale, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Oliver Devlin, Karin McCracken, and Ralph Upton), Werewolf is a spin on the old game of deception.

Set inside a shelter during a werewolf outbreak, the performers (Karin McCracken, Arlo Gibson, and Joel Baxendale) play the wardens tasked with safeguarding survivors.

Taking place inside the Basement’s main theatre, seats are arranged in a square. As the audience enters, each person receives a unique role to perform during the show.

Set over seven days, the show is broken up by periods of complete darkness, as it becomes clear that someone inside the room is infected.

While there is a structure that the performers are following, Werewolf requires a high level of audience participation. 

With every show, I try to place myself in the best position to engage with the experience – I try to sit in the front row, and always put my hand up to volunteer for whatever is required. 

Live theatre is dependent on a receptive audience. It is an easy thing to say but the experience with Werewolf was complicated by a few audience members sitting behind me who were more interested in being the show themselves.

One could argue it added to the experience, simulating the splintering of people into different factions. While it added a new variable to what was supposed to be a highly interactive experience, it did not add to this reviewer’s experience. 

As the show went on, these interjections became less noticeable, as the performers gradually adapted to them and the stakes of the scenario became more intense. 

The members of the audience who were assigned roles all performed enthusiastically, and by the final reveal, actors and audience were in sync. It was fascinating to see how the audience’s collective mood shifted as the situation became more serious – when it became clear that a werewolf was hiding amongst them, a large section were vocal in demanding the prime suspect be locked inside the prop box. 

The shift in tone is aided by periodic nightfall, signalled by total darkness and unsettling sound design (by Oliver Devlin). 

Overall, Werewolf is an effective exercise in crowd control, despite the efforts of certain parties. The cast are all good, and rolled with what the audience gave them. The concept is intriguing and the technical production is effective. 

The show does feel a little shaggy around the edges, although that could be down to the specific circumstances of my session.

It took around ten minutes for the performers to wrangle the audience, and I could detect some level of restlessness at the outset. The audience also talked over the performers while they tried to lay out the ground rules. It felt like the show was adrift for a mite longer than it needed to be.

In retrospect, there is a certain horror story logic to the audience’s reactions, from jocularity and disbelief through conflict and mounting panic. 

So maybe Werewolf is more of a success than I am giving it credit for. 

It is definitely worth checking out, and being a participant. Just remember that you are a part of the show, rather than the star of it.

Werewolf has completed a May 2022 nationwide tour with a season at Basement Theatre 24-28th May, 2022.

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