A play set around a
poker game may not sound like the most interesting watch but Patrick Marber’s
script contributes character, excitement and intensity towards an engaging
piece of theatre. The cast of
The core of the production is faultless and worth the watch in itself
Dealer’s Choice introduces us to the staff of a London restaurant who religiously, every Sunday night, gamble in the restaurant’s basement.
We watch as each has to face the consequences of their lifestyle. But most of all we learn of a father, restaurant owner Stephen, struggling to see his son waste his life away. Stephen is brilliantly played by Neil Roberts who drives the play forwards. Roberts creates a profound character that is exciting to watch, and you can see the cogs turn in his mind as he gambles with his everyday life. Together with Griffin Stevens playing his son Carl, a heartfelt relationship is conveyed providing the most absorbing moments in the play.
Comic relief was provided in part by Mugsy, played by Matthew Zilch. A joker with many quirks who becomes the butt of multiple jokes. Our enjoyment in these jokes was increased by the cast’s clear enjoyment in delivering them. However, occasionally Mugsy had too many quirks, and it made me wonder how long, realistically, the other characters would have put up with him, I don’t think I would have for long.
Things do get shaken up a bit towards the end of the first half with the introduction of Ash played by David Keyes, a dark, ominous figure who joins the poker game in order to reclaim a debt from Carl which has been kept hidden from his father. Keyes creates a very intriguing character that brings suspense and unease to the play. You long for the clash that inevitably comes between Ash and Stephen, which is even more pleasing than you’d expect.
It is a shame then, when these great performances that have pace and energy are slowed down by excessively long blackouts allowing the mind to wander. A particular scene showing two simultaneous heated conversations is disjointed by slow cuts between the two. The powerful performances however, almost excuse these cuts and carry the scene, which then explodes with energy.
Noticing this flaw led me on to notice other flaws in the production. I realised that, at points, I wanted more from Dealer’s Choice: more intensity and more suspense, which the script definitely allowed. There were moments where it felt too easy and therefore a bit flat. We had seen how captivating and exciting all these characters could be, so it was dissatisfying when their progress backtracked.
Even so, I had great pleasure in watching the performances, in particular an ace performance by Neil Roberts. All in all, Dealer’s Choice boils down to the struggle between a father and son, the core of the production is faultless and worth the watch in itself, it’s the cracks in the rest of the production that slightly let it down.