David Mamet’s 1987 movie House of Games is one of the modern cinema’s psychological thriller greats. It’s also mysterious and sometimes impenetrable. Richard Bean’s new stage adaptation is true but different, gripping but transparent, and full of genuine stage thrills.
It works, in fact, as a sort of black farce, and is given a new tone of absurdity that is purely theatrical. It’s a genuine adaptation, whereas the Almeida’s Ingmar Bergman show, Through a Glass Darkly, earlier this year, was a pointless, un-theatrical re-mix.
There’s a new character, a tattooed goon played by John Marquez, in the seedy bar-room poker school, and a tantalising, unintended red herring in Amanda Drew’s doubling of an out-of-town gambler with a Florida literary agent.
The central, sexually charged, sting between Nancy Carroll’s sensual, sucked-in psychologist Margaret Ford and Michael Landes’s charismatic Mike has a wonderful new twist on it, though the set-up with Al Weaver’s needy dope head is the same.
It’s a great show, very funny, and a neat complement (or, if you like, antidote) to the more artificial spoof thriller Deathtrap. Marvellous performances, too, from Peter De Jersey as the insurance “mark,” Trevor Cooper as fat George and Dermot Crowley as the old-timer Joey.