Gambit Theatre Presents: Contrast

Gambit Theatre’s offering at the Fringe is a theatrical exploration of two real-life conmen and more specifically, identity imposters.

So who is the biggest conman of them all? Probably the hapless person who handed me the flyer earlier that day, promising me a show about Kubrick.

We begin with Alan Debenham, a homeless man who famously impersonated popular TV documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux in order to get a room at a pub. Joseph Williams, as Debenham, is drunk and affable, giving an engaging performance. He is interrupted far too soon by a heckler from the audience, who, dandily outfitted in a velvet coat and cravat, proudly introduces himself to us as Alan Conway, “the artist” who impersonated film director Stanley Kubrick for three years – despite having only ever seen one Kubrick film. Max Fitzroy-Stone is perfectly cast in this role, showing nice light and shade as his charm begins to wear off. Supporting them is an ensemble (Lily Cooper, James Esler and Sam Hill) so malleable that they even play furniture – but of course, in a play like this, there’s always more to it than that.

Written and directed by Rory McGregor, Contrast considers the motivations of identity thieves, and the justifications they give themselves. It contrasts the stories of Debenham and Conway effectively in asking if it’s ever really possible to trust someone. As the two leading men played a tug of war over their stories, I felt we could do with more of Debenham. The cast has good comic timing and the ensemble’s physicality is great to watch, although there were some issues with actors finding the light when fixed spots were used downstage.

It’s fascinating subject matter though, and an enjoyable, unpredictable journey as the tables turn and the power continues to shift. We are left guessing until the end, suspecting some kind of con, unsure of who the mark will be. So who is the biggest conman of them all? Probably the hapless person who handed me the flyer earlier that day, promising me a show about Kubrick.

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Performances

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The Blurb

‘Well, I’ll have you know I’m an acclaimed film director, I’m an award­winning journalist, I’m… I’m a conman’. What is really going on in the mind of a conman? And what do you get if you supposedly put Stanley Kubrick and Louis Theroux in a room? Two liars? Certainly. Two artists? You decide. Come and hear the stories of conmen who stole famous identities and moulded them into their own. A journey through the remarkable and dark lives they have led awaits.

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