18 January 2008

Gambling - By Matt Hartley

Tom - Tom Brooke
Sean - Sean Campion
Liz - Liz Crowther
Chris - Christine Entwisle

Rehearsed Reading directed by Raz Shaw for the Rough Cuts season in the Royal Court Upstairs.

Dominic was in the audience again and so was Samuel West and Alan Coran's daughter.....argh and that woman who did The Play's the Thing with Sonia and Neil.

Well, in marked contrast to Tuesday's reading, I had no difficulty in remembering the character names but we were given even less paperwork this time than on Tuesday. In fact we were handed a betting slip with a hard fact about compulsive gambling. As you can see, despite the lack of cast list, a quick glance at the website furnished me with both cast and characters.

We took our seats the the strains of a wonderful beat and the performers will already on stage, Chris moving, trance-like. By the time we had settled, the entire cast were dancing in their own space but in a strangely connected way. Even at this early stage you could see the individual personality type without yet knowing what they all had in common. This was so much more than a reading. Chris had a long monologue right at the start and had one sheet of paper in her hand for that but only one other chunk of text was read from a script (by Tom) and the rest was totally off book, as it were. The aforementioned entry from Chris was gloriously interrupted by the rest of the cast spouting their anxieties and justifications. Our cheeky Irishman had a wonderful line that went something like: It's like when you're watching the match and then it's half-time and you think 'Woah!' where did THAT go? The first time he said it we loved his energy but when he repeated it at various intervals the audience were highly amused.

One the back wall there were pages from those conference flip chart things. There were 20 odd points listed with a character name by them and that was about all the prompting the cast had. Tom did one of his slugs out of order but it was not really a progressive arc (unless I missed that) so it didn't matter. There were some wonderful combative exchanges and one really clever but simple section where two cast members (Liz & Sean)just repeated (in THEIR character) whatever Chris said. Virtually the entire piece was set to music and the cast mimed various gambling activities (most often slot machines) which were choreographed to great effect.

All this intensity only lasted for 30 minutes but they were so well used. A triumph in concept and performance. I think the structure might benefit from a little more work but it's something very exciting in the making.