Framed as a rediscovered Aristophanes play about the Olympics, Spike Theatre takes the audience on a bizarre and unpredictable journey through Ancient Greece in The Games.
The production was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2011, and has since been touring regional theatres, loosely shadowing the Olympic Torch on its travels around the country. The show is performed with great energy and the production of copious amounts of sweat by a trio of performers – Liam Tobin, Mark Keemar Smith and Keddy Sutton.
The Games is pure entertainment, packed full of silliness, puns and prosthetic genitalia. It’s not subtle humour by any means, and can feel repetitive and obvious on occasion, but overall seeing the production remains a fairly fun way to spend an evening. It’s the structure that lets the piece down overall, with the story being used to set up certain silly moments rather than allowing any organic comedy to emerge from the loose narrative.
To sum it up, the plot concerns three average Greek citizens being gifted special powers by the gods in order to win a specific Olympic event. Hermaphrodite (Sutton) for example has been gifted male genitalia by Zeus’ wife Hera, being the only way that a woman could compete, and the prosthetic phallus is what Spike Theatre uses to generate most gags. So if “silly willies” aren’t your thing, then there’s a limit to what comedy you’ll find in this show.
Performances are generally strong, with Tobin standing out as having the greatest stage presence, stealing the show with his sheer stamina and physicality. Unfortunately with such vague and weak direction, the genuine skill of Tobin and the other performers is lost.
The Games feels like a work-in-progress, or a university sketch show, which in itself is no bad thing, but the lack of real depth in comedy or structure leaves nothing to generate much lasting enjoyment.