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The Gambit by Mark Reid

Bath Fringe Festival 2013

The Gambit is a play which on the surface looks to be about the re-match of a game of chess between two old Soviet rivals, Anatoly and Gary. But what we find tucked beneath the surface is an intimate, poetic and sometimes harshly truthful exploration of the breakdowns in friendships and relationships.

It is easy to draw analogies between the story being told and a game of chess. Each line is careful selected and spoken to tip the odds in the favour of the character speaking them as the status see-saw battle between the opponents tips up and down. Every move is strategic and even the characters costumes match the black and white chess pieces that they play with. The end result is more a comment on life in general and the themes and issues discussed are easy to relate to.

The tension as the play starts is almost unbearable as Anatoly slowly, deliberately and with extreme care begins setting up the chess board. This is completely contrasted by the entry of his younger rival Gary who almost clumsily grabs the chess pieces and sets them out with passion and vigour. This opening sequence helps the audience see the strain on the relationship between these two characters immediately. The tension however is slightly lost when they begin conversing and it would have been nice to see a little more awkwardness between them as the dialogue begins. The piece does eventually build in strength again and the tension is rightly re-instated.

The relationship between the characters is deep and complex and you’re never quite sure where the journey of the piece may take you. It is a tale of love, hurt, loss, anger and a need for redemption which is never quite given.

Both actors play the parts extremely well and never shy away from the complex language of the piece. Even if you don’t completely understand what is being said, the actions and reactions of the characters are good enough that on some level you comprehend what is going on – this is a credit to the abilities of the actors.

All in all the Gambit was an extremely interesting and thought provoking piece that leaves you thinking long after you exit the theatre. If you are looking for something which is a bit different and challenges you to think then I would highly recommend catching this show if you can.

Luke John Emmett

Theatre Bath