Tag Archives: Arcola Theatre

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 Narcissist

The Narcissist

★★★

Arcola Theatre

The Narcissist

The Narcissist

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 7th July 2021

★★★

 

“I hated it a whole lot less than I thought I was going to ten minutes in”

 

Whilst the one-man show has become the de facto format for new theatre this year, it’s also really the only format appropriate for a play expounding on the benefits of narcissism as a world view, with the help of nothing but a flip chart, some pink haze lighting and a playlist of big ‘80s hits (Sam Glossop).

“We’re all self-obsessed. The only difference between you and me, is I’m louder”, so says Will Adolphy, dressed in sunset leggings and neon pink sweat bands, as he takes us through the five lessons we need in order to fully embrace his narcissistic teachings.

When Will was twenty, his dad committed suicide. He’d spent his whole life saying to Will, “I’m doing all this for you!” But a life dedicated to everyone’s but his own happiness ultimately led to unbearable misery. So, Will posits, the best thing you can do, instead of trying to be a good, selfless, caring person, is to be entirely selfish and self-obsessed, or rather, own up to how selfish and self-obsessed you truly are.

The premise smacks of Richard Gadd’s careful cocktail of shocking comedy and red-raw honesty in shows such as Monkey See, Monkey Do. But it’s a very difficult thing to get right, and Adolphy doesn’t quite hit the mark. All the ingredients are there: he’s clearly willing to put his own pain front and centre, and he’s got good- sometimes great- comic timing.

But the aim of this story seems to be either to genuinely preach that we should all only do what we want and feel like doing, regardless of how it affects others, in which case, it feels like a trauma narrative and not something to laugh at. And if this is exactly what Adolphy wanted, he needs to lean in and, as cruel as it sounds, properly access his trauma. He needs to choke the audience’s laughter, rather than use it as an ineffective shield.

Alternatively, Adolphy is trying to preach a kind of individualism which would ultimately make society a happier place, in which case, he needs to work out how he really wants to put this message across because that’s not what I left feeling. The comedy is too light where the message needs some traction. Yes, it might be amusing to sing a song about how big your penis is, and then write your phone number on a flip chart, but it doesn’t really get the message across that being a narcissist is a winning idea.

The other option is that Adolphy is going for a kind of satire, in which case, it’s got to be a lot funnier and a lot grittier.

In short, The Narcissist (directed by Gemma Aked-Priestly) doesn’t know what it is. But with a brutal re-write it could be very interesting. And, in a kind of defence, I hated it a whole lot less than I thought I was going to ten minutes in.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ridhish Devani

 


The Narcissist

Arcola Theatre until 11th July

 

Previously reviewed this year by Miriam:
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | June 2021

 

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