EFR - Reviews of interview with a genius

interview with a genius

Wed 12th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Louis Shankar

at 10:47 on 26th Aug 2015

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Calling a show ‘interview with a genius’ might seem cocky or even stupid but this bizarre and glorious show is, at times, nothing short of genius. Created and performed by George Vere (the eponymous genius) and Adam Willis, with help from an extensive videoed cast, this is a show like no other. Unsurprisingly this show takes the form of an interview, the audience is led through Mr Vere’s extensive career, which ranges from beat poetry and contemporary dance to building aquariums and hiding in caves.

Character comedy can be hit and miss but the George Vere is a wonderful creation; from his black turtleneck to his tap dancing and singing skills, the attention to detail is brilliant. However, some of the best moments were clearly improvised, both of the cast pushing each other to their limits, from comedy opera to wedding marches. In fact, I was entirely unsure how much was improvised (for better and for worse): there was a lot that was unprepared and spontaneous but also a lot that must have been carefully written, as it segued into recorded interviews with collaborators.

Unfortunately, these moments sometimes felt wooden in comparison and still managed to falter. It was a shame how often this happened, with one or both of the performers breaking character and giggling or similar; with a bit more confidence I’m sure this could be corrected because the material was consistently funny despite its absurdity. It did get a bit dark at times, namely when it came to discussing ‘the incident’, but this worked and actually produced one of the biggest laughs of the night.

This is the kind of show that has to be seen to be understood. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen here and is definitely worth a detour to see; the show is free but could easily be ticketed and I wouldn’t complain. Vere is a brilliant character and I hope to see more of him; there’s a lot of potential for further development and I can easily imagine this becoming a cult hit, with in-jokes and running gags, that could become something truly great.

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Becky Wilson

at 11:05 on 26th Aug 2015

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This semi-improvised, semi-scripted play is a hidden gem. Interview with a Genius is a tongue-in-cheek examination of the life and work of ‘world-renowned’ beat poet caricature George Vere. With the help of interviewer Adam Willis, the arrogant Vere discusses his most controversial art installations, from the burning down of an entire forest, to the forcing of an Asian man into a burlap sack. This bizarre discussion is punctuated by short video extracts of the visionary’s art projects, and interviews with his gushing collaborators who have names such as ‘Plantain’ and ‘Jafarius Z’.

Vere is absolutely hilarious as an egotistical visionary. Sporting a black turtleneck and a scowl, he absolutely masters lines such as “I have given you culture and you have spat it back in my face” and “no one had even heard of film before I got my hands on it”. However, Vere seems unwilling to surrender himself entirely to this ridiculously conceited persona.

It would be interesting to see Willis develop a stronger personality too, rather than being merely a vehicle of interrogation. On a few occasions, both Willis and pianist Ian Fleming visibly giggle onstage. This is disappointing: it shatters the illusion and places the burden of the entire play on Vere’s shoulders.

The play is a clever hybrid of rehearsed lines and improvisation. We are treated to side-splitting dialogue, but also get to watch Vere squirm as he ad-libs his way around Willis’ spontaneous questions. Highlights include Vere’s improvised description of “the terrible thing that happened at the aquarium”; and his forced, on-the-spot rendition of ‘The Fish Song’ from his Swedish comedy opera.

Having said this, Vere was unwilling to engage with a lot of the improvisation. Frequently, the dynamics between him and Willis descend into matey banter, each trying to make the other uncomfortable onstage without much relevance to the show. This is a free play, so audience members aren’t expecting perfection. But it’s a shame to see a show with so much potential undermined by its own performers.

Interview with a Genius is an extremely clever and original show. Its ingenious concept and razor-sharp delivery make it possibly the funniest piece of theatre at the Free Fringe. It certainly needs a bit of polishing, but with development of Vere’s character, and greater professionalism amongst the cast, this show could become a genuine Fringe treasure.

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