Willis and Vere: Genius is an improvised comedy, in a similar format to others in that the audience is invited to offer suggestions and the actors run with it. There’s an inherent risk to it, which is part of the reason why it’s so alluring, and so satisfying to watch if done well.
The premise for this show centres on a hapless presenter who’s found himself woefully unprepared for an interview with a big-name artist. Not only has he not read the artist’s latest book, but he also appears to know very little about the man himself, so he needs a little help from the audience.
When he struggles to think of a word or an event, he turns to the audience who dutifully throw a random suggestion in his direction. It’s a very simple concept, and a great premise for an improv show.
No good interview would be without a few nostalgic videos, so the show is intercut with video clips showing various events and performances from the interviewee, and it has to be said these are really well made items – particularly a set of trailer spoofs, which were put together with real care and were excellently done. The only exception to this was one clip, which was little more than a terrible impression of Sacha Baron Cohen’s famous Borat character, but the less said about that the better.
Despite the great premise and the mostly excellent supporting material, it’s unfortunate that the live performance is where the show fell flat. The only flaw with the setup it is that both interviewer and interviewee seemed to be in on the joke, which is a real missed opportunity.
The key issue however, was with the improvisation itself, which is disappointing as that’s the main selling point for the show. There is only really one rule when it comes to improvisation, and that is to say “yes!”. To take whatever you’re offered and run with it without judgement or hesitation. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case here, with both interviewer and interviewee hesitating and judging the offerings to such an extent that it very quickly it became self-indulgent.
They need to make sure they get the basics right. If they do that, they have everything else they need to make a good show.
Runs until 15 March 2020