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A Serious Play About World War II review at Vaults, London – ‘a metatheatrical farce’

Adam Willis and George Vere in A Serious Play About World War II at Vaults, London Adam Willis and George Vere in A Serious Play About World War II at Vaults, London
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The new show by Willis and Vere – the duo behind 2015’s hit fringe farce The Starship Osiris – is called A Serious Play About World War II but, rest assured, it’s anything but.

A more accurate title would be A Hugely Funny Comedy Caper About a Play About World War II Gone Wrong. But that probably wouldn’t fit on the posters.

The pair – George Vere (tall, exasperated) and Adam Willis (short, bald, panicky) – start by declaring their departure from farce and introducing their hard-hitting, verbatim play inspired by interviews with a Holocaust survivor.

Said survivor, who’s actually sitting in the front row, irately interrupts the wildly offensive mess that follows. Willis accidentally kills him. And the whole thing descends into mayhem. The police are called as the body count rises.

There are strong echoes of the classic Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper and the Corpse, with Willis and Vere carting limp bodies around the stage, stuffing them under tables and propping them up on audience members. They take it far beyond light relief, though – when Vere gets out the hacksaw to dismember the deceased, the show takes a blood-spattered dive into the absurd.

It’s not always slick but the awkward, clunky pauses actually slot neatly into the teetering metatheatrical conceit.

Both Willis and Vere are capable comedians, as are their supporting performers. This is a sly, smartly plotted new show from some seriously exciting young farceurs.

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A not-so-serious meta-theatrical farce from comedy duo Willis and Vere