Edinburgh Fringe 2010
The premise is a restaurant where a weekly Sunday night poker game takes place at the insistence of the owner; naturally playing to his rules, and his alone. The staff have worked there for some 7 years since it opened and their resentment has been festering and is currently at boiling point. The debts are rising for certain members of the group but there is no choice but to play, after all, every game could see a winning trick.
Patrick Marber’s Dealer’s Choice is quick witted, plays for a laugh a minute theatre with a threatening edge. Dugout Theatre Company’s production doesn’t disappoint complimenting the play with a tight well put together ensemble and innovative scene changes.
Ed Smith deftly steals the show with his happy go lucky, often naive but very witty character Mugsy, who often lives up to his very apt name; for example his desire to purchase a building that is currently as he puts it, a ‘public convenience’, in layman’s terms, a toilet, to turn it into a restaurant. Smith oozes confidence on stage. His east London charm tumbles out of his performance in bucket loads. Despite multiple fire alarm bells interrupting the flow of the show and an ‘almost’ evacuation Smith used his excellent off the cuff hilarious improvisation skills to keep the audience engaged and refocused their attention right back to the play despite the interruption. Other standout performances came from Tom Gill playing boss, Stephen, Will Barwick as soft touch Chef Sweeney and the ominous Jimmy Walters as Ash.
The music and choreography is one of the strongest elements to this production and sets it apart from the pack. The ensemble cast have great comic timing and physicality. The tiny, stuffy space was well utilised and managed to convey 3 locations with very little disruption to the stage space and set. The touch of innovation when it came to the scene changes gives this production of Dealer’s Choice a competitive edge. The characters used the scene changes to incorporate movement and choreography into a play that would normally and more predictably be shown in a very straight linear manner. This ensured the audience never had a dull moment and the cast worked together seamlessly as a tight ensemble.
This play and the cast in this production are an excellent example of male ensemble work at its best. There is a slight lack of depth from some of the characters (Frankie and Carl), partly due to their limited script, but also because other characters (and the actors who play them) command more attention on stage.
Overall however this is a slick, compact and impressive piece of theatre and a must see of the festival.