Playing Cards 1: Spades** (Roundhouse, 7 February 2013)

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Theatre

Robert Lepage has gained sufficient renown as a theatre-maker to have his name dominating the posters, so, when a director is given such prominence, it was to be expected that this new production would be mostly about visual impact. It is the first of four plays, each shaped around one card suit, this one supposedly having the theme of war and set in the underbelly of Las Vegas, where gambling addiction, prostitution, illegal immigration, etc are rife. With a technical crew that far outnumbers the performers, there is certainly much to impress. Characters and objects emerge from and sink into the huge round stage, which is frequently revolving. Unfortunately, however imaginative the staging may be, there is little point to it when it evokes neither the magic of Las Vegas that forms its allure nor the seediness that lies beneath its surface. Furthermore, when the action calms and there are just two or three actors performing a scene, they are unable to create any dramatic impact because they seem remote and lost. I saw the first preview performance, so I have to forgive most technical glitches, but, as some scenes are performed in French or Spanish, it was very sad that the surtitles should have been out of sync. Last and certainly least what about the script? Leaving aside quibbles about the staging, this is the biggest problem with the show; eight writers are given credit, which could explain why there is a lack of both cohesion and focus, but the script is also plodding and inexcusably dull. Overall, a big disappointment.

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