Almeida Theatre, London
In our surveillance, sex obsessed world, there’s a new kind of `big-game’ hunting now available. `Just a bit of fun’ is how one club owner describes the practise of installing two-way mirrors so that male customers can pay to watch their female equivalents in the toilet and changing areas, unbeknown to the women.
Mike Bartlett, ever a writer with a sharp eye for social disharmonies, has taken that `fun’ and created an extraordinary peep-show for the 21st century – a toxic mix of voyeurism, fairground shooting galleries and the post traumatic stress affect on returning soldiers.
Game really rubs our noses in it. Rightly so. What people do today for `entertainment’ and what young couples find themselves forced to consider in order to put a decent roof over their heads come clashing up against each other noxiously in Game.
For Carly and Ashley have `sold’ themselves to an entrepreneur who has installed a shooting gallery where punters can pay to shoot them. In a dream house, we watch Carly and Ashley doing increasingly intimate as well as domestic things – even to trying to make a baby – as punters, sloshing back the champagne, come in and `shoot’ them.
Of course, they rise again. They’re being shot at by darts. For all that, it’s a troubling experience sitting in the reconfigured Almeida transformed by director Sasha Wares and designer Miriam Buether into four, two way-mirrored zones, watching on screens, through headphones live and pre-recorded scenes.
The ultimate in the use of modern theatre technology, if all this leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, that presumably is exactly what Bartlett intends, to highlight our increasingly bankrupt moral and commercial values and the effect upon the young of video games.
A laudable aim but I’m not sure the technical side doesn’t overwhelm the point. Barely an hour long, even so it feels repetitive, despite a late twist concerning the ex-soldier and PTS.
I also began to feel uncomfortable about a certain exploitation of the actors.
I love the chutzpah of Rupert Goold’s Almeida. But I couldn’t help wondering if with two shows a night, management aren’t guilty of their own `big game hunting’.
First published in Reviewsgate, March 2015