Game is the newest work by Mike Bartlett, who is fast becoming one of Britain's most prolific and successful young playwrights. At just 34, he has written a string of thought-provoking and powerful plays that capture a distinctively 21st century zeitgeist.
His most compelling plays are either sweeping State of the Union epics, such as Earthquakes in London and the recent Almeida sellout and West End transfer King Charles III, or intimate and tightly written, provocatively titled character pieces such as Cock and its companion Bull.
Staging the housing crisis
Game focuses on a young couple trying to create a home in the context of the current housing crisis. When offered a house, a moral and ethical dilemma unfolds as the couple discover how far they are willing to go to retain it, and at what personal cost. Played by Jodie McNee, Three Winters (National Theatre) and Mike Noble, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (National Theatre) the young couple fuse their mix of child-like excitement followed by their respective symptoms of frustration and disillusionment expertly.
The Almeida has been completely transformed for the purpose of Mike Bartlett's, latest play: audiences are ushered in to one of four zones, given headphones and watch the show unfold as if from behind the screens. "Big Brother" has found its stage.
In a dark twist, it transpires that the couple are to become targets in a futile hunt, where richer people pay to enter the zones, lurk and strike with tranquilliser darts that disable the targets, momentarily making them unconscious. Privacy is defunct: the surveillance and the "game" appear never ending, moments of intimacy are interrupted and even the couple's 9 year old son isn't exempt from the hunt.
Miriam Buether, set design
Like the audience, the "hunters" are never seen on stage and only observe their targets from behind the screen: we are somehow, uncomfortably, complicit in the sense of voyeurism that the gauze screen invokes. As expected from Sacha Wares and Miriam Buether, the director-designer duo behind Wild Swans at the Young Vic, the staging is inventive: removing us from and involving us in the action the same time. The production itself undoubtedly a triumph.
Game, Almeida, Review
All in all, Game makes for disturbing, but intriguing viewing. It's predictably clever writing from Bartlett. He grapples with a number of pertinent issues beyond the housing crisis: the morality of surveillance and of hunting, the indulgence of adult fantasy, the ethical boundaries of entertainment, unemployment, suicide amongst soldiers, the addictiveness of gaming.... However, by the end, you can't help but feel that staging aside, the ambitious number of multifarious ingredients are at risk of disengaging from the dramatic momentum and falling, discussed but disunited as the audience remove headphones and breathe a sigh of relief. This aside, we were engrossed.
|Where||Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, Islington, London, N1 1TA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
23 Feb 15 – 04 Apr 15, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Almeida|