The Gambler Review
In a fin-de-siècle gambling den we find Edgar, an old man whose universe has shrunk to the dimensions of the green baize card table. What hand was dealt him to bring him to a point where he plays alone and the only game in town is Chase the Lady?
As Edgar straightens, the years drop away and the rasp relaxes from his voice. “How do I look?” asks his younger self – a gentleman who may gamble, but always knows when to stop. But there is always one more hand, one more spin of the wheel and Lady Luck is with him.
He and his muse are locked into a dance of fanned cards and as she whispers her encouragement he wins, he loses, he wins. And so his addiction starts. There is always another time and gradually the money ceases to matter and he plays for the moment – lives in that instant of tension where the card is yet to be turned or the roulette ball hasn’t settled, where it could all change.
As he flashes between old and young we also learn that there was another woman in his life, “a real woman, quite different”. Just as he metamorphoses over his ages his muse, his Lady Luck, changes from a demanding, passionate, scarlet woman to the caring and nurturing Margaret.
For her, life is but a game, and as she constantly chases the horizon she shows him a world spinning larger than the roulette wheel. Ultimately Edgar will have just one chance to decide between her and his demon, his god, his lover.
Theatre Re specialise in devising visual shows which border on mime and theatre, and here have created a little Dostoevskyian universe to explore the pains and pleasures of gambling – a world where, as Lord Byron said, “every turn of the card and cast of the dice keeps the gambler alive”.
The work has been inspired by the writings of Pushkin, Zweig and Dostoevsky and informed by the experience of former gambling addicts. It’s perhaps not a story that Pushkin would have identified with, as he eschewed metaphor and ridiculed the sentimental romance of his day.
With accompanying (often live) music, the narrative is kept flowing through sections of dance-like movement. The premise of the gambler playing endless games does wear a bit thin and the piece feels under-developed and lacks the very tension which is clearly in Edgar’s heart.
The performances are strong throughout, although in the later stages, Tamer’s “muse” is a little overplayed.
The visual appeal and physicality of the work is its strong suit and, in isolation, might be enough to win the day, but here at the Fringe there are other companies who say more and affect more strongly – even without words.
It’s atmospheric, beautiful and full of theatrical sleight, but ultimately a little too slight.
Show Times: Runs to 26 August (not 13), 2.45pm.
Ticket Prices: £7 - £9 (£6 - £8). Two for one Aug 7