(c) Alex Brenner

The Game of Love and Chance

Reviewer's rating

In the programme for The Game of Love and Chance, the first two pages after the basic info is given over to an interview with the show’s commedia dell’arte consultant. It is one of the least revealing or informative interviews I have ever read. This wouldn’t normally be a problem (I’m not here to review the programme after all) but it is indicative of how I left the whole production feeling. Like either, I am missing something, or they are.

The Game of Love and Chance is a confused and confusing production. It is not social commentary, but the problem is, it sort of thinks it might be. But the only sort of. It doesn’t commit either way.

It would be better if it had not tried at all. The politics are a little bit all over the place. Where it is clear we are meant to laugh at the ridiculous tribulations and class obsessions at the heart of the play, the moral that we all find our own level leaves us in a much darker and more right-wing place than the more charming elements of this farce deserve.

The key problem with the production lies in several choices made by the director. I felt the weight of a cast struggling gamely with choices they weren’t quite sure of and weren’t fully committed to. For example, the choice to use a very heightened approach to the dialogue made little flow naturally but wasn’t pushed quite far enough for it to feel immersive. It was also a poor choice given the venue, as all too often it simply felt like the cast was trying to shout over the Dalston traffic.

The story is a fairly simple one of role-swapping lovers. As such the play takes too long to get going, and the first half has far too much exposition and setup. It could be happily cut down. The second half-zipped along far better and had far more laughs. My advice would be to take the first half and cut almost half of it. In doing so you could sharpen this play into a much better final product.

There is a kernel of something there. There is a sense of goodwill and charm from the actors and the staging worked well for the farcical elements.

But in delivering a play that was unsure what it was, and took too much time to find out, I am afraid that this game has not paid off.