In a parallel world of Playstation computer games exist Sal and Roddy. Their objective is to make it up to Level Five and the end of this sassy, punchy and outrageously in-tune piece of theatre, opening up to each other without revealing their true selves.
Sal runs a failing computer games shop and, with the arrival of cut-price competition down the road, he's the first of his family to fail since his father emigrated from India. His wife prefers his brother's more conventional lifestyle and his bigger, better car.
Roddy's one of the reasons Sal has failed. A spotty geek of a kid known as Helmet, he spends all his life in the shop playing games and frightening the other customers away. What he doesn't know about computer games isn't worth knowing, and the same can be said for what he does know about life.
Douglas Maxwell, author of Fringe hit Decky Does a Bronco, has turned in a sharp new play that doesn't just speak loud and clear to a young audience, but takes them that bit further into the realms of theatre than thought they could go. It is also clear enough to work for the non-computer literate.
In Playstation land, characters have lives and when one has been lost, they just need to start again. As a device, this works neatly in allowing for alternative realities to be discussed and rejected, while clueing the audience in on extra depths to the two characters.
It takes a high level of skill and much daring to bring off such an up-to-the-minute piece of theatre without appearing condescending or trite. And in this Paines Plough production, co-produced with the Traverse, John Tiffany doesn't flinch once in his direction of Ameet Chana as Sal and Tommy Mullins as Helmet.
Chana makes Sal an immensely driven young man. Bitter at the failure of his enterprise, he feels it his own failure, not one foisted upon him by circumstance. As Helmet, Mullins is the exact opposite: a failure who is responsible for all that has happened to him and who has come to exist in the world of computer games.
Both actors create highly motivated and believable characters which work both as elements of the theatre and of the computer game - breaking off into little routines when they gain energy or lose lives.
A thrilling production which proves that in the age of computers, live theatre still has a life.
- Thom Dibdin (reviewed at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre)