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The Game Of Love & Chance at Arcola Outside | Review

There’s no doubt that Covid has forced theatres to think outside the box and in the case of The Arcola in Dalston, they’ve literally thought outside their existing theatre box and opened a brand-new space about 60 metres from their current location on what was a piece of barren land. On it, there is now an outside space covered by a giant dome to keep the rain and snow off as it’s going to be used year-round although last night it was keeping the
tropical sun off our heads.

Arcola - The Game of Love and Chance - Michael Lyle, Beth Lilly - (c) Alex Brenner.
Arcola – The Game of Love and Chance – Michael Lyle, Beth Lilly – (c) Alex Brenner.

Their first production is an updated version of Pierre Marivaux’s The Game Of Love And Chance (“Le Jeu De L’Amour Et Du Hasard”) which was originally performed in 1730. Now two hundred and ninety-one years later Jack Gamble (who also directs) and Quentin Beroud have brought it into the twenty-first century.

On a fairly basic set – a large couch and a door on either side of the stage – this tale of star-crossed lovers, mistaken identity, masters, servants, deceit and treachery takes place. Without giving away too much of the complicated and convoluted plot, it’s the story of Lady Sylvia (played by Ellie Nunn) who’s 58th in line to the throne, attempting to find a husband as her father Lord Orgon (David Acton) wants to see her married as soon as possible. He’s arranged for a possible suitor, Dorante (Ammar Duffus) to visit and woo her with marriage in mind. However, Sylvia wants to see how he’d react to her if he didn’t know she was royalty so she trades places with her servant Lisette (Beth Lilly) so she can observe his true worth as a suitor. Dorante arrives with his driver (Michael Lyle) who may not be who he says he is. To say any more would give too much away but there are lots of twists and turns before the story is resolved.

As in all farces, there are lots of moments of going in and out of doors, pratfalls and physical comedy all carried out with lots of energy from the cast of six (the other character is Sylvia’s brother Marius played by George Kemp who’s 57th in line to the throne – or is that 59th!).

There’s lots of nods and winks to the audience as well as breaking of the fourth wall. The language spoken is a hybrid of the original text and the up-date although heavily loaded towards the latter, but it all works well on the whole.

As well as having farcical moments and pantomimic, over the top characters, the piece is based on the Commedia dell’arte tradition although unless you’re a scholar of the form, you may not have noticed this (I didn’t) although one of the characters does mention his real name is Harlequin but it’s almost in passing.

The Game Of Love And Chance is an excellent introduction to the brand-new space. I think it could do with a bit of pruning as the first act, in particular, is full of long stretches of dialogue that doesn’t advance the plot. However, whilst David Acton and George Kemp are underused (I hope there are some comfy chairs backstage for them – they have lots of waiting around), the rest of the cast are all excellent with the very funny Beth Lilly the standout – she stopped the show at one point. One of the highlights comes right at the end when the cast dance energetically to The B-52’s “Love Shack” superbly choreographed by Natasha Harrison. I’m not sure what Marivaux would have thought about it, but the audience loved it and it was a great way to finish, sending the audience out into the steamy Dalston night dancing and singing.

Oh, and talking about comfy chairs, my one complaint about the Arcola Outside is that their wooden benches are probably the most uncomfortable theatre seating I’ve sat on for a really long time (ever?). If you’ve got a dodgy back like mine, I suggest you take along a cushion or two!

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

A brand new, raucous adaptation of Pierre de Marivaux’s romantic comedy, ‘The Game of Love and Chance’ by Quentin Beroud and Jack Gamble, brings Marivaux’s classic comedy of love and class into a modern world of minor royals and major scandals. Lady Silvia Orgon, 58th in line to the British throne, faces a crisis when she falls in love with a man she thinks her family would never accept.

The production opens amid the fallout from the Harry and Meghan interview, which has shone an international spotlight on the Royal family’s traditional attitudes and the ongoing prejudices at the top of British society.

David Acton (Mr Orgon)
Ammar Duffus (Dorante)
George Kemp (Marius)
Beth Lilly (Lisette)
Michael Lyle (Harlequin)
Ellie Nunn (Sylvia)

Jack Gamble (Adapter, Director and Associate Director at Arcola Theatre)
Quentin Beroud (Adapter and Associate Director.)
Louie Whitemore (Designer)
Geoff Hense (Lighting Designer)
Tom Attwood (Sound Designer)
Natasha Harrison (Choreographer)
Didi Hopkins (Commedia Consultant)

‘The Game of Love and Chance’ runs 14 July – 7 August 2021

The Game of Love and Chance
by Pierre de Marivaux
in a new version by Quentin Beroud
and Jack Gamble

Arcola Outside
Ashwin Street,
London E8 3DL
Box Office: 020 7503 1646

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