Theatre review: Game is nasty and brutish - but effective

Game's immersive set

Almeida Theatre | ★★★★☆

Game at the Almeida is a disturbing collage of contemporaneousness that aims a poison-tipped dart at a number of hot-button issues ranging from the shortage of affordable homes to our reality TV obsession. Writer Mike Bartlett and designer-directors Sacha Wares and Miriam Buether have gone to extreme lengths to realise their disturbing vision; an average, two up two down house is surrounded by two-way mirrors behind which sits the audience, who spectate on a young couple as they go about their daily lives.
What initially appears to be a big brother style reality TV experiment turns out to be something far more sinister as actors enter the audience area clasping champagne flutes and a sniper rifle. It becomes clear that you’re witnessing a strange, sadistic leisure pursuit in which people pay to come and fire darts at people living in the house. In return for living as human targets, the unemployed couple get to live in a relatively well-appointed home.
It’s nasty, brutish and short – clocking in at under an hour – but wickedly effective. It invokes the same clammy, voyeuristic pleasure as watching reality TV, with regular people pushed to breaking point in situations that look like reality but are actually sadistic and extreme.
The programme contains no information about the director’s intentions. Instead it has a collection of newspaper cuttings that portend a future in which Game could be a reality. It’s difficult to imagine a more twisted solution to the housing crisis.

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