Tag Archives: Ammar Duffus

The Game of Love and Chance

The Game of Love and Chance


Arcola Theatre

The Game of Love and Chance

The Game of Love and Chance

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 19th July 2021



“The Arcola Theatre continues its well deserved reputation for offering quality theatre with this show”


Pierre de Marivaux’s classic comedy The Game of Love and Chance has just opened in a sparkling revival at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney. The eighteenth century script is newly adapted by Quentin Beroud and Jack Gamble (who also directed) and brought up to date in a modern dress production. Staged outdoors (a blessing on a hot and sticky July night) there is a lot to enjoy in this show, and the energetic performances of the cast of six.

The plot of The Game of Love and Chance is simple enough. It’s a classic because of the way in which Marivaux sets it up, and then turns the screws by introducing complication after complication. Sylvia, a wealthy and aristocratic young woman, is expecting a visit from her betrothed, Dorante, whom she has never met. Sylvia begs her father for an opportunity to get to know him without his knowledge of who she really is. She wants to change places with her maid Lisette. She is a typical Enlightenment woman, more afraid of a man’s mind (or lack of it) than his heart. Her father Orgon readily agrees, having just received a letter from Dorante’s father proposing that Dorante woo Sylvia, also dressed in a servant’s disguise. Both fathers want to give their children the chance to fall in love without the distraction of wealth or family position. Of course it all gets hilariously convoluted before Dorante and Sylvia (and their servants Lisette and Harlequin) are happily, and appropriately, mated in their “game of love and chance.”

The Game of Love and Chance owes a lot to the Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte, and despite the modernized setting, adaptors Beroud and Gamble have remained true to that. There are multiple opportunities for lazzi, or comic routines, both on and off stage. The set, designed by Louie Whitemore, and tucked into a corner of the Arcola Outside, is the perfect space for all the comic business that must enacted before the lovers are finally united. “Marivaudage “ or the banter that Marivaux’s dramas are famous for, is also present, not only on stage, but also in the delicious back and forth that Lisette (played by Beth Lilly) engages in with the audience. The script keeps the audience laughing with a lively mix of rhymes (“humble crumble”), seemingly on the spot improvisation, and opportunities for sight gags. The actors are clearly enjoying themselves performing it, and spread that joy around the auditorium.

And it is the performances that really make this revival shine. Updating dramas from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can always be problematic in that they seem just modern enough for us to understand intuitively, but then there is all that class warfare business and discomfort with the idea of arranged marriages to overcome, before we can truly relax and enjoy the situation. Beroud and Gamble’s modernization of The Game of Love and Chance is not immune from the dilemmas of translating the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. Some of the solutions do seem a bit trite. Fortunately for us, however, the cast of this adaptation of The Game of Love and Chance know just how to settle us down. The whole cast works well as an ensemble, but the couple who really hold the whole thing together are the boisterously funny Ellie Nunn as Sylvia and Ammar Duffus as her lover Dorante, or, as the hilariously and spontaneously named Catflap, in his servant disguise. (You have to be paying attention to the set to see how this comes about.) Nunn and Duffus play effortlessly off one another, but it’s Duffus’ intense sincerity that keeps the whole situation grounded when the comic complications threaten to get out of hand. Beth Lilly and Michael Lyle (as Harlequin) are the other pair of seemingly mismatched lovers, and manage their lazzi (and Marivaudage) with confidence and flair. David Acton, as Sylvia’s genial father Orgon, and George Kemp as her annoying brother Marius, complete the energetic team.

The Arcola Theatre continues its well deserved reputation for offering quality theatre with this show, and it’s always worth the journey to see what they are producing. The Game of Love and Chance could be seen as a bit of an outlier in their repertoire, but if you’ve never seen Marivaux’s work, and are curious, this is a decent introduction. Just remember to take cold water with you if it’s a hot night. Laughter is thirsty work.



Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Alex Brenner


The Game of Love and Chance

Arcola Theatre until 7th August


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Narcissist | ★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021


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The Play About my Dad – 4 Stars


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 29th June 2018


“Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo”


It is hard to imagine the horror of being caught up in Katrina, the category five hurricane that caused catastrophic damage along the gulf coast of America in 2005. Along with claiming some 2,000 lives it caused $125 billion worth of property damage as well as having a profound impact on the environment.

To do justice to the panic, horror and loss those involved must have experienced in a stage show is very difficult. However Boo Killebrew has written a play that travels through many times and places and successfully achieves that.

The Play About My Dad is an autobiographical account of her own experiences of the event along with stories of some that experienced the full force of Katrina. Running alongside these stories, which are fictionalised versions of what likely happened to them, is her reaction to the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the subsequent reconnection with her father following his survival of the hurricane.

The two main characters are Boo herself (Hannah Britland) and her father Larry (David Schaal), a doctor called into action when the storm struck and who serves as the play’s narrator. They are performing and writing a play that tells these stories and it is an interesting vehicle that allows Boo to interact with the characters despite her having been partying in New York at the time.

We are introduced to the young Thomas family who decide not to evacuate to safer ground. Joel Lawes as Jay Thomas projects a relaxed southern approach to life and always has a positive approach to survival not necessarily shared by his wife Rena (Annabel Bates) and son Michael (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah). Also staying put is Larry’s elderly former nanny Essie Watson, played with conviction by Miquel Brown. Ammar Duffus and Nathan Welsh play two Emergency Medical Technicians and they connect and interact well every time they are on stage. There is pessimism and hope in equal measures. Juliet Cowan makes brief but impactive appearances as Sallye Killebrew.

Charlotte Espiner’s set is very basic with pallets, boxes and sheets of plywood that gives the impression of both protection and reconstruction. The lighting design from Ali Hunter is simple but effective with great use of blue under lighting to represent the incoming water and a chilling session when we listen to events in complete darkness.

The direction from Stella Powell-Jones moves the ninety minute no interval play along well ensuring attention is never lost. Elena Peña’s sound design is clever keeping the studio levels of a 175mph hurricane low, though never out of mind.

I felt the cast did everything expected of them, and rarely did I think they were acting. For the writer though, it must be difficult watching someone portray her on stage. In the playbook she writes ‘And as for the actress playing Boo, please make her really likable’. Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Harry Livingstone


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre until 21st July


Previously reviewed at this venue
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018


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