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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Game Of Love And Chance
Arcola Theatre   Summer 2021

There was occasional laughter during the Arcola’s performance of Beroud and Gamble’s adaptation of Pierre de Marivaux's The Game of Love and Chance. There was also at times a look of weariness on some of the faces watching the over two-hour production. It was understandable.

This peculiar updated adaptation set in an era with mobile phones and emails, follows a simple obvious plot line, with characters that had no identifiable personality and a dialogue that is neither funny nor interesting.

Two upper-class people, Sylvia (Ellie Nunn) and Dorante (Ammar Duffus) decide to secretly check each other out as prospective marriage partners by swapping roles with their servants Lisette (Beth Lilly) and Harlequin (Michael Lyle).

Thus the real servants supposedly fall for each other believing they have fallen for a member of the nobility and the real ‘nobility’ fall for each other thinking they are in love with a servant.

None of the characters express any real attraction to each other, though upper-class Sylvia referring to Dorante under his assumed name Catflap says ‘maybe I want Catflap to sniff me.’ And in perhaps a tribute to the Carry On films, a character walks into a room unexpectedly as Harlequin is pushing his head up Lisette’s skirt.

The original French play of 1730 may have been an opportunity to explore class and gender differences, but in this adaptation the difference between the classes seems to amount to little more than politeness among the upper classes being contrasted with the clumsy crudity of the servants. Thus Harlequin dressed in his 1960s psychedelic clothing of pink trousers and flowery patterned shirt says he would like ‘a nice pint of champagne.’

If social comment, depth of character and even comedy is lacking, the dialogue is distinctly unimaginative though some lines seem familiar. For instance one upper-class character says to another ‘I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want ‘ to which is added moments later ‘I’ve enjoyed the whole thing, particularly if you can bring home the fries.’

If dialogue and direction made the show feel slow-moving and without content, there is a sudden end of performance dance scene in which the cast come brilliantly to life, but unfortunately that's not enough to make the show worth seeing.

Keith McKenna

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Review of The Game Of Love And Chance - Arcola- Theatre 2021


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