Review: You Game
Image courtesy Murphy Ra Entertainment
Ivan Murphy - Jack Guest
Alice McCarthy - Bella Lanson
An immensely successful screenwriter lures his wife's lover to the house and convinces her to stage a robbery of her jewellery; setting off a chain of events that leaves the audience trying to decipher what is true, and what is fiction for the sake of the game.
Written by Sam Ra, You Game is a modern, female led, story based on the Tony Award-winning classic Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer.
You Game takes the male role of Milo Tindle and shifts the character to become Bella Lanson, creating added challenges to the older character of Jack Guest (previously Andrew Wyke) on new levels of gender and patriarchy, on top of the twisty game play the original script is so famous for.
You Game is based on an immensely successful, award-winning play - Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer - which was first performed almost half a century ago back in 1970 and was subsequently turned into a film in 1972 starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.
You might wonder, then, why it would be necessary to adapt or rework the concept given its acclaim.
The answer seems to lie in gender-switching because in You Game we find the role of Milo Tindle being translated into the female character of Bella Lanson, played here by Alice McCarthy.
The title of this modern, female led thriller crops up in the play itself and (for explanatory purposes at least) might be better written with a question mark at the end (You Game?) since it is basically asking someone if they are ready to play or perform an action.
The plot of You Game essentially follows the basic line of the original.
Ivan Murphy's Jack Guest is a successful and wealthy screenwriter whose wife Alice has left him for a young actor called Bella.
Jack invites Bella round to his swanky Holland Park residence for drinks and a chat during which he explains that his wife's extravagant spending might bleed Bella dry.
Jack's solution is for Bella to join him in an insurance swindle in which she can acquire some ready cash.
Now I haven't seen a production of Sleuth in some time, so I can't testify as to how well the original stands up in our modern era where gaming as a pastime is ubiquitous.
But knowing the original storyline rather negates the element of surprise as events unfold and the ending is, perhaps inevitably, entirely predictable.
Louis Carver's set design also opts for the obvious echoing chess board squares with outlines drawn on the stage, and the rectangular patterns on the back wall of Jack's living room where all the action takes place.
The raised stage, though, provides an uninterrupted view of proceedings and cleverly isolates the action almost as if we're privy to a kind of eccentric scientific experiment, or looking down on a boxing ring where the characters spar.
However, I couldn't detect anything in the way of novelty, added meaning or enhanced power from the gender-switching which seems the essential raison d'être for the enterprise.
More significantly, the plot itself feels strangely weak and dated, at times almost ludicrously contrived - especially when the tables get turned in the second half and Bella fetches up in trousers about a foot too long, in a wholly unconvincing charade.
And, in spite of spirited performances from both Ivan Murphy and Alice McCarthy, the play as a whole fails to provide the intensity of surprise or suspense to really grip and have us on the edge of our seats.
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ActDrop listing for RADA
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