Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

What a comic treat: The Game of Love and Chance at the Arcola reviewed

Plus: synthetic fury and misanthropic witterings at the Bush theatre

Lady Sylvia (Ellie Nunn) and Dorante (Ammar Duffus) in The Game of Love and Chance at the Arcola. Image: Alex Brenner

Lady Sylvia is a gorgeous aristocrat whose hand is sought by the charming Dorante whom she has never met. To avoid the stiff formalities of courtship, Lady Sylvia swaps places with her maid and observes Dorante from the safety of pretended servitude. But instead of falling for Dorante, she becomes enamoured of his manservant. However, there’s another wrinkle coming in Marivaux’s classic comedy. Deronte’s manservant, unbeknown to Lady Sylvia, is actually Dorante himself, who has pulled an identical switcheroo with his valet. The story is so hopelessly contrived that its sheer artificiality becomes part of the joke.

This production of The Game of Love and Chance, directed by Jack Gamble, captures the fun-loving spirit of the original. With a sympathetic and delicate eye, it mocks the self-deluded posturings of young lovers as they engage in the art of seduction. What a treat to sit in a theatre and watch a troupe of actors who simply want to make everyone laugh. The action halted several times, mid-scene, while the audience burst into spontaneous applause. More theatres should offer this blend of escapist comedy and psychological revelation.

‘Blast, now I’ll have to self-isolate.’

Lava is a biographical tale spoken by Ronke Adekoluejo and directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike. The author, Benedict Lombe, is a sensitive woman of Congolese descent who appears to be hopping mad about everything. Especially racism. Her difficulties start early. Her African parents are hard-working, adventurous professionals, (father a medic, mother a fashion entrepreneur), who give her a fabulously cosmopolitan childhood. This seems to have left her seething with resentment. She’s particularly harsh on her poor mum whom she characterises as a hobbling, wide-eyed halfwit with an obsessive interest in the misdeeds of President Mobutu.

While growing up, Lombe watches a lot of US soaps and she adopts an American accent which makes her seem exotic wherever she goes.

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