Games of Love and Chance

A witty piece of throwback theatre, Games of Love and Chance is quite the delight. Set in the late 1920s, it’s a classic Wodehousian tale of mistaken identity, constantly falling in and out of love and increasingly weird cocktails. What is most impressive about the play is that it is obviously in love with the genre while also showing an awareness of its faults. Without ever being too knowing or arch, the play has a subtle anti-patriarchal edge to it, which pushes it from the amusingly nostalgic into the genuinely interesting.

Games of Love and Chance mixes wordplay with slapstick, wit with silliness all to admirable effect, but most of all, it’s jolly good fun.

The performances are all pitch-perfect. Sir Oscar Botcherby (Hamish Colville) is a fantastically arrogant and silly presence who somehow manages to pull off being casually genial and casually cruel. Charlie Quinn (Ed Sheridan) is charming as the Hugh Laurie-like fop who, though he has something to hide, is determined to have fun. But it is Amy Millns as Edith Smith who often ends up stealing scenes. Her turn as a maid pretending to be a lady is nuanced and hilarious. From her slightly exaggerated physicality to her embarrassingly overdone laughter, her performance is wonderfully silly and sympathetic. Praise must also be given to Felix Trench as Martin Botcherby, who makes the best of a small role, seemingly getting a laugh with everything he does.

The script by David K. Barnes is both light and funny. The dialogue is sharp and the plot (usually much harder in these kind of farces) is for the most part tight. Towards the middle, the play loses some of its momentum because it adopts a darker, rather more serious tone that doesn’t appear to work as well. However, this is soon picked up with a very fast-paced and funny ending; all the plot strands come together with the slickness that one expects of the genre. But it is the subversive, revisionist approach of the play which really makes it shine, proving that period pieces can be shot through with an entirely 21st century mindset.

There is also a live three-piece jazz band, which do an effective job of creating an atmosphere. However, sometimes they do feel overused, as if they're scoring every joke. They fall just short of doing a ‘ba-dum tish’ after a punchline, but only just.

Games of Love and Chance mixes wordplay with slapstick, wit with silliness all to admirable effect, but most of all, it’s jolly good fun.

Reviews by Rory Mackenzie

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Two attractive members of the wealthy elite are arranged to marry before the weekend is up without ever having met. In a bid to secretly spy on one another they swap places with their servants, who relish the idea of sipping martinis while their employers mix the next round. Follow our four lovers as they lose themselves between the walls of a sprawling country estate to the tune of a live jazz band. Praise for previous work: 'Laugh out loud hilarious' ***** (ThreeWeeks). 'Phenomenal quality of humour' **** (BroadwayBaby.com). 'Blissfully funny' **** (WhatsOnStage.com).