Sam Ra’s You Game is a take on Anthony Shaffer’s award-winning Sleuth and is a fast-paced, clever and knotty revenge thriller, which re-genders the role made famous by Michael Caine. A self-proclaimed ‘modern, female led play’, You Game tackles issues of gender and sexuality in an ordinary but important way. At its core, this is a play about two people with a strange know-how for playing games. Indeed, they are mentally matched but it is abundantly clear that anyone ignorant to societal progression will always be playing a losing game.
Photo Credit: Peter Breen
You Game takes the audience to Jack Guest’s (Ivan Murphy) comfortable Holland Park house, where the entire play unravels. This simplicity is stylish and powerful and leaves what happens offstage mysterious and confusing. Jack’s home is riddled with tokens of his obsession with games and role-playing: a board game sits atop the coffee table, swathes of DVDs and books line the shelves, an excessively large movie poster – ‘Man Eater’ – looms over the room, and a script for Jack’s most recent screenplay is strewn across his desk. Young actress Bella Lanson (Alice McCarthy) arrives from Dalston eager to impress, yet anticipatory of the prospect of visiting her lover’s estranged husband. The two interact in a series of sinister encounters – think staged heists and pretend murders – which culminate in an unsurprising and slightly hasty outcome. These unusual meetings are coupled with the awkward, and at times laughable, clash of different generations.
Two distinctive themes of You Game are love and money, and the plot explores how these generational conflicts might come into play here. A traditionalist, Jack expresses his inability to see the two as anything other than inextricably linked. He makes vulgar comments like ‘sex is the game, marriage is the penalty’, and relies on the fact that he can financially provide for Alice in a nonsensical attempt to convince Bella she is unsuited to take her from him. Bella, on the other hand, believes her modest income will sustain Alice – their love makes up the rest. I think most pressingly, this is a comment on Jack’s delusion and detachment from reality as a self-obsessed, misogynistic screenwriter. He is increasingly isolated as Bella becomes less an awkward juvenile, and more refined and confident.
The play’s minimalist set is paralleled by the two-character cast. Alice, Ivan’s wife and Bella’s lover, is never seen, only referenced. This builds up an interesting narrative around perception and judgement, where we are never offered a chance to objectively witness a character that seems so pivotal to the plight of the two protagonists. This feeds into the wider obscuring of the audience’s perceptions. You Game presents a constant toss-up of truth and deceit, so that the audience is continually lured into and subsequently expelled from the stories these characters tell.
Sam Ra’s winding and elaborate storyline is complimented by two complex and dark yet wildly contrasting characters, who subject the audience, and one another, to their twisted mind-games in a way that leaves you wholly intrigued.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor