‘Game Of Life‘, the new play from writer Rose Lewenstein and Director Russell Bender has landed at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick for a run which continues until 22 September.
The premise of the play is based around the ‘Game Of Life‘, a cellular automaton devised by British mathematician John Conway where patterns of cells form, are destroyed and then form again. The play’s five characters’ complex relationships follow the same intricate dance. There is autistic teenager Isabel (played by Kate Mayne), her upstairs neighbour and mentor the brilliant Gregory (Richard Clews), a retired professor obsessed with Conway’s discovery, Isabel’s mother, urban planner Caroline (Catherine Cusack), Tom (Nicholas Karimi) who is Isabel’s teacher at school and Tom’s fiancée Claire (played by Stephanie Thomas).
On a stage patterned like the physical model which sits in Gregory’s flat, the tables and chairs move around in carefully choreographed sequences as each new scene is set – in one moment light will fall on a kitchen table where a heated conversation is taking place between mother and daughter, while in the next we’re watching a confused interaction between teacher and pupil in the classroom. One particularly memorable scene has each actor saying a single line before the narrative moves on to the next person – despite these being five discreet conversations on five different subjects all of the lines actually fit neatly together. It’s a remarkable piece of scripting. ‘Game of Life’ is played at a whirlwind pace and has some really meaty moments – explosive emotional crescendos usually stemming from Isabel’s frustration when she is feeling overwhelmed. I will note here that Kate Mayne’s portrayal of the troubled teenager is very well-observed – all of the performances are solid but hers’ really does stand out.
If there is any criticism to be leveled at the play, I do wish that writers would resist what must be a terrible urge to make everything about the Olympics – we don’t really need to know that Caroline is playing a key role in the redevelopment of Stratford in order to understand her motivations!
Ultimately, ‘Game of Life’ asks a big question – can we exercise control over our own lives, or does our position at the centre of a web of relationships rob of us this ability? You’ll have to go and watch the play to find out whether Lewenstein and Bender have the answer…
The play runs at The Yard Theatre up to and including 22 September 2012, and you can purchase tickets at this link – at the price of £9 a pop you really have no excuse to not go and see this superb new play at one of London’s quirkiest fringe venues.