There are some people who look at a Jackson Pollock painting and see form and beauty and a magnificent use of paint; others would say their 9-year- old child could do better. There are some people who would listen to a piece of music by Schoenberg and describe it as beautiful combination of sounds; someone else might describe it as a load of noise.
I’m sure some people would have enjoyed “Losing Games” and seen what the writer and director Stella Christodoulupolou was getting at in her performance piece “Losing Games” but I’m afraid this reviewer isn’t one of them.
It’s described as “a devised ballroom performance that examines the set political, social and economic structures through a playful game frame” which in itself is a bit misleading as there is some dancing at the beginning and towards the end but calling it “ballroom” is stretching the meaning of the word.
I have never made so many notes when reviewing a piece of the theatre as I did with Losing Games, trying to make some kind of sense of what I was watching. The piece opens (after a late start) with the audience seated around the perimeter of the of the beautiful, dilapidated and incredibly atmospheric Asylum chapel in Peckham. In front of us is one chair and a tea-trolley with cups and saucers, a teapot etc. and on the walls behind us, are photos of various people of different ages. The two performers, Chrysanthi Avloniti and Alexandros Vardaxoglou have been sitting with the audience and emerge from the seats where they proceed to put some more photos on the walls. Avloniti then puts on a kettle and Vardaxoglou makes them each a cup of tea. A waltz then starts playing and the pair start to dance to the music. Avloniti then runs to a microphone and says “Do you like games?”. A little bit later she uses the microphone again and says “I like playing all sorts of games – do you?” and “What about love”.
There then follows a series of a series of seemingly unconnected vignettes including playing a game of football on the floor with wind-up toys and commentary which is videoed and shown on a wall. There’s a monologue about executions whilst the performers wear masks of an elderly Greek looking couple. They wear the same masks as Vardaxoglou plays a “shoot ‘em up” video game which is projected on the wall and later they wear the same masks to watch an American propaganda film about the threat of communism. There’s also some Greek dancing, a piece about a man on the moon using another wind-up toy backed by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and a long political piece about Greece after the war. We even get a “commercial break” when some old American and British commercials are projected on the wall and a girl comes around offering the audience crisps, popcorn and sweets which are then eaten very noisily as the piece continues after the break!
If this all sounds incohesive and disjointed, then to this reviewer, it certainly was. Maybe there’s a deep meaning that I missed. At times there seemed to be a thread running through the piece about Greece and how badly it was treated by the rest of Europe after the war – and some say it still is to this day – but it was a very thin thread that didn’t pull everything together in a cohesive manner. On the flyer for Losing Games, it asks “Is everything a game?”. Maybe it is but if it is, last night was a losing one for me.
Review by Alan Fitter
Losing Games – A devised ballroom performance
It’s all your generation’s fault. Or is it not? Losing Games is a performance where two actors will meet, go through history, converse with their ancestors, play, narrate stories and dance together. It explores issues of memory, European history, the notion of borders and interrogates whether everything is a game or not.
3rd of August 2016, 7pm.
Venue: Asylum Chapel, Caroline Garden’s Chapel, London SE15 2SQ