Dir. Selma Dimitrijevic, Tron, 5th-8th November
Nikolai Gogol’s tale of card-sharpers and their swindles was written in 1843, but it is no less riveting when performed for a modern audience. Dimitrijevic’s adaptation, performed by theatre company Greyscale, is extremely successful in immersing the audience in the thrilling twists and turns of this classic story.
In the game of gambling, nothing is as it seems, and the production brings to life a world of deadly stakes and deceit, in which Gentlemen’s Club conventions and male bravado are defamiliarised by an all-female cast. The actors engage with the rhetoric, body-language and aesthetic of this hyper-masculine culture convincingly, so much so that it is at times difficult to see what the company is hoping to achieve with this role-reversal. However, the play, like the game itself, deals with subtleties and facades, and the commanding presence of the female actors is effective in that it forces the audience to question again and again the increasing strangeness of what is taking place in front of them.
The play begins in a changing-room setting as the characters don different clothes and identities before the stepping into the fray of the gambling world. Music performed by the actors themselves is frequently cut short – a bizarre and foreboding reminder that life can take an expected turn at any given moment.
The story itself is fast-paced and riveting, and vacillates between comedy and tragedy at alarming rates as the characters become more and more embroiled in devious plots and schemes. The physicality and energy of the performers captures the violent undertones behind the superficial camaraderie created in the heat of the game, and makes for uncomfortable but engrossing viewing. The shocking twist at the play’s conclusion seems to leave the entire audience reeling.
All in all, the production manages to be thoroughly entertaining, while at the same time hitting a nerve by exposing the lengths of greed and deceit that we are capable of going to when the allure of deadly social games takes over.