A man at home receives a visitor, one who has come with specific purpose. The man, however, has a proposition of his own that’s most unexpected… So begins You Game by Sam Ra. In a general sense, this is the same plot as Hitchcock’s Dial ‘M’ For Murder, but this play is in fact an updated version of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth. In its original incarnation, Andrew Wyke – a middle-aged crime writer – is visited by Milo Tindle, a younger man. The reason? Tindle is having an affair with the crime writer’s wife and wants by charm or duress to convince Wyke to agree to a divorce.
In this version which is directed by Matthew Bosley, Wyke (or rather Jack Guest as he’s now called) is a screenwriter, whose most famous creation is a character called ‘Brad Slade’. Played by Ivan Murphy, Jack is full of bravado and enthusiastic about his profession. As he’s in fine spririts, one wouldn’t think Alice (his wife) has left him for someone else. Case in point: Bella Lanson (Alice McCarthy).
As Jack’s wife’s lover, she’s not only younger than ‘the competition’, but a different gender. Without age, strength and status – the traditional traits of masculinity, there’s very little where Jack and Bella have common ground, let alone where they would naturally compete with each other. It also throws into question how well Jack really knows his wife with regards to her sexuality. Of course, if the reason his wife stayed as long as she did is because of his wealth, there’s every chance that she’ll return to him once ‘free and impoverished’ loses its novelty…
In contrast to Jack’s confidence and swagger, McCarthy’s Bella gives a considered response to his line of questioning, taking a measure of the man she’s dealing with. Even so, McCarthy nonverbally conveys what Bella’s thinking through her facial expressions and body language. When dealing with someone who as a crime writer is used to thinking three steps ahead minimum, nothing that is said can be taken for granted… But as for the insinuation that Jack dropped about Alice’s penchant for ‘being kept’, it has a ring of truth to it – like Daisy’s admission in The Great Gatsby that she married for money. If Alice is so happy living with her in Dalston, why does she need a divorce and Jack’s money..?
As you would expect in a play that deals with ‘crimes’, motives and mind games, there are twist and turns as each party takes part in ‘the game’, using any and every method at their disposal to throw the other ‘off-balance’. But in a twist of fate, the intellectual stimulation that Bella brings to the table is eveything that Jack was missing in Alice. Maybe it’s time for Jack to trade up…
© Michael Davis 2019
You Game ran at RADA Studios from 26th to 30th November.