Tuesday, September 21, 2010

House of Games review (Almeida Theatre) - world premier stage adaptation

I got the ticket for House of Games the moment they were released at Almeida Theatre. One thing that you can be sure about productions at the Almeida Theatre is that tickets tend to run out fast, especially once the official reviews, which are often favourable, are out. Furthermore, this is the world premier for the play adaptation.

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Only the day before I came across Evening Standard Henry Hitchings’ review on House of Games. ‘… strangely humourless’, he called it. Not a good sign at all. But there’s no way I’m going to miss a play just because a review, especially when the ticket has already been purchased. But it did lower my expectations a bit.
I must admit that I had my reservations after reading the synopsis of the original 1987 movie by David Mamet with the same name, which the play is based on. For those who are familiar with the movie itself, you could be forgiven if you thought that the storyline has, well, gone a bit awry towards the end. It seems as if Mamet is trying to end the story in a hurry.

My apprehension was put to rest by Richard Bean’s stage adaptation of Mamet’s House of Games. Though it started a bit shaky with Billy (Al Weaver) in a therapy session with Margaret (Nancy Carroll). Billy’s ‘humourless’ wisecracks did get on my nerves a bit early on but the story did warm up a bit when Margaret confronted suave con Mike (Michael Landes) in his basement lair – House of Games.

Bean attempts to tie up the loose ends in Mamet’s original story – having Mike exposing the cop’s (Peter De Jersey) cover, Margaret going back to House of Games searching for Mike, and Margaret’s second book deal as a result of the incident, just to name a few. Interestingly, Bean’s version did throw up some puzzling details of its own as well. Look out for the ladies’ door left opened by Margaret when she escaped after listening in to the con group’s conversation. I would have thought that Mike would think that something is amiss when he close that door.

House of Games, like most movie based production, is a fast paced and a scene based play. The music provided by solo guitarist Django Bates pushes the dramatic factor up a notch. The cosy setting of Almeida Theatre helps too.


House of Games
(Till 6 November 2010)
Almeida Theatre
Almeida Street, London N1 1TA
Tel: 020 7359 4404

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