Game Theory

Edinburgh Festival review
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Ek Performance
Pamela Carter (director, co-writer), Selma Dimitrijevic (co-writer), Fran Craig (stage manager), Nigel Edwards(lighting), Fiona Johnston (sound), Kirsty Mackay (design)
John Paul Connolly (negotiator, older brother, Chris), Meg Fraser (negotiator, sister, Sarah), Alexis Rodney (negotiator, younger brother, co-ordinator)
Running time

The opening of 'Game Theory' doesn't prepare us for the end. Which would be fine, save for a sense during the intervening scenes of wondering where we're going. Pamela Carter and Selma Dimitrijevic have developed a play which raises more questions than answers, which again would be perfectly acceptable in a theatrical context, except that the questions themselves seem as wrapped in mind-set as one of the play's characters often seems to be.

This reviewer remembers being on the Falls Road in Belfast during the late nineteen seventies, listening to a woman tell him; 'Son, you're too young to remember the bombing' (of the Second World War) 'Let me tell you, this is worse.' In the run-up to the most recent presidential elections in Zimbabwe, a Matabele grandmother caring for her orphaned grand-children was quoted as saying of her fellow villagers, 'We will eat grass before we vote for that man' (Robert Mugabe). To begin to appreciate the depth of feeling of those bereaved, displaced and denigrated by the political, social, racial or religious attitudes of others is a long hard road in someone else's shoes. 

How does anyone lacking the lived experience of daily trauma begin to deal with those on whose minds it remains indelibly etched? Possibly like Alexis Rodney's character you become as dubiously and facilely empathic as Tony Blair.

'Game Theory' begins by focusing on three nameless negotiators - Meg Fraser, Alexis Rodney and  Connolly, each tentatively groping toward a from of words which will ensure them a 'peace with honour' they can 'sell' to their own particular constituents. The anonymity of persons, place and cause works well, and is in some ways the most satisfactory of the play's three scenes.

The location and focus change, however, to a family dealing with the return of one brother who has fled the war zone to a reunion with his two siblings who lived through the trauma which has engulfed their country. Tensions between them mount, but are not fully resolved.

One wonders if that is also the outcome of the meeting between Chris and Sarah, on opposite sides of a 'truth and reconciliation' process which both want to believe will enhance the prospects for peace in the younger generation.

Anonymity ultimately becomes incredulity through disengagement - there aren't enough solid anchors of time and circumstance to make us believe in the character's experiences. Ek Performance claim part of their mission is to produce theatre 'which reflects upon and raises questions about the world we live in.' This world, however, doesn't feel in any way close to the lived experiences this play attempts to touch on  

Times: 14-26 August, (various times, see Fringe and Traverse programmes for details)

Copyright Bill Dunlop 2007, published on August 2007