Tag Archives: Tom Attwood

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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Murder for Two

Murder for Two
★★★★

Watermill Theatre

Murder for Two

Murder for Two

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 4th February 2019

★★★★

 

“a high energy antidote to the gloom of both the season and of our current national politics”

 

Take two actor-musicians and ask them to hold the stage for ninety crazy minutes during which they will play thirteen different characters. Not just acting and singing, but also playing the piano, sometimes individually, sometimes collaboratively and sometimes even competitively. That’s the big ask for the latest show to galvanise the stage at Newbury’s theatrical gem, the Watermill Theatre.

Murder for Two is the work of Joe Kinosian (music) and Kellen Blair (lyrics). Conceived as a mad mash-up of (wait for it) Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers, it offers a high energy antidote to the gloom of both the season and of our current national politics.

The show’s world premiere was at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in 2011, when the production was awarded the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical in Chicago. It went on to tour extensively throughout the States and was first produced by the Watermill to much acclaim for its fiftieth anniversary season two years ago. In this amiable revival, Ed MacArthur as the Detective and Jeremy Legat as (all twelve) suspects return for a short season that ends on 23rd February. 

The pocket-sized Watermill pioneered mini-musicals, with a version of Cabaret for a cast of just eight in 1998, making the venue a shoe-in for pared down shows like this.

The plot concerns the murder of a great American novelist at his birthday party. Was it the work of his wife, the side-lined singer Dahlia Whitney, or of Barrette Lewis, the pirouetting English prima ballerina? Or was it the ten choir boys whodunnit? But all this is pretty inconsequential, since the story’s main purpose is to provide a peg on which to hang the prodigious talents of the two performers.

Jeremy Legat works his socks off as the suspects. Deft gestures, a few props and a lot of vocal talent keep his twelve characters entertainingly distinct. Ed MacArthur as the small town would-be detective Marcus Moscowicz is not quite his straight man, since he has his own share of daft quick fire comedy. The duo demonstrate immaculate timing, not least when an audience member sneezed at a critical moment. The performers simultaneously shot back a ‘bless you’ without missing a beat. At other moments the ‘fourth wall’ was broken again, with a running gag about phones going off and some other surprises.

If you’re in the mood for light-hearted fizz, there’s plenty of it in this sparkling show directed by Luke Sheppard, with musical direction by Tom Attwood and an impressively gloomy set by Gabriella Slade.

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Murder for Two

Watermill Theatre until 23rd February

 

Watermill Theatre – winner of our 2018 Awards – Best Regional Theatre

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Teddy | ★★★★★ | January 2018
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018

 

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