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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Lifegame
Lyric Hammersmith Theatre  July 2010

This divertissement from Improbable Theatre is described as part chat show, part improv.

In each of the two acts a guest - sometimes a celebrity, sometimes someone chosen at random from the audience - is invited onstage and interviewed by host Lee Simpson. Cues such as 'Describe a typical meal at home' or 'Tell us a story from your childhood' lead to the cast of five actors and two musicians attempting to act out their version of the scene.

There is no question that the gimmick is clever, and the quick-thinking actors are frequently very inventive. Much of the fun comes as the interviewee corrects them when they get the dynamics or characterisations in a scene wrong and they have to shift gears in mid-improvisation, or from the times they stumble on getting it right, to their own surprise and delight.

After a few such sequences, the cast end each half of the evening by building a musical number out of one of the scenarios.

On the other hand, you may feel that there are taste questions here. Celebrities are fair game for anything, but while Simpson makes it clear to the people whose seat numbers are drawn out of a hat that they don't have to come onstage if they don't want to, they can refuse to answer any questions and can leave whenever they wish, there is very strong social pressure from the audience to Be A Good Sport.

On this celebrityless night one of the two audience members selected was clearly pushed beyond her comfort zone and urged to talk about things - e.g. her religion and a childhood bully - that were personal, making parts of her half of the evening uncomfortable to sit through. (The other basked in the spotlight, and had no problem with being made to look more than a bit foolish in scenes from his schooldays and a failed romance.)

I don't like watching stage hypnotists make people cluck like chickens, even if they are volunteers, and I can't help feeling that Lifegame is just a sophisticated version of that quasi-sadism. If that doesn't bother you, you may find this a satisfying evening's entertainment.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Lifegame - Lyric Hammersmith 2010