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In Performance: Almeida Theatre’s Game (London)

Game at the Almeida Theatre

Game follows the story of a family who’s made a devil’s bargain in exchange for a beautiful new home. Designer Miriam Buether has transformed the Almedia: four audience seating roosts kitted out in camouflage like overgrown duck blinds surround a central performance space, which is alternately revealed and hidden by electronic blinds. The family’s tormentors, a warden who manages the visitors and a rotating parade of characters who are familiar yet vaguely appalling types, appear by turn in each of the seating areas, allying themselves with the audience. Three flat-screen monitors deliver mostly-live footage of the action, allowing the audience a close-up look at all the players of the game. Because the sound is delivered via headphones, the lack of directionality sometime makes it difficult to tell who’s speaking and where they are. Occasional video game-like touches such as player statistics, on-screen crosshairs, and an animated logo (all part of the video design by London-based wizards 59 Productions) draw attention to the similarities between this “game” and familiar first-person shooters. There’s an interesting contrast between the liveness of the actors and the detachment provided by viewing the action via video or behind glass; the audience is left to measure the sense by the players that their actions either have no consequences or that the consequences are justified against the evidence of the increasingly serious effects faced by the game’s victims.

Game plays on in London through April 4.

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