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The Gambit (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Lass O'Gowrie
Where: Manchester

In the same vein as recent popular political films like Frost/Nixon and recent plays such as The Situation Room comes Mark Reid’s first full length drama based on the story for Russian Chess champions Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov and their controversial world chess championship matches of 1984/1985 and the aftermath.

The action takes place after a period of 25 years of the pair having not spoken to each other and against a backdrop of a bitter deep-seated feud that is still raw and fresh for Gary (Nick Pearse) while Anatoly (Ben Rigby) is hoping the passage of time has lessened the hurt and will allow them to rebuild their relationship.  

The dialogue is complex and fast paced and at times, too clever in the sense that there is danger the audience could become alienated due to the amount of diverse lexicon used.  Although a political drama and by definition, required to use multifaceted language, at times the script delves too far in to this and tries to be cleverer than it needs to be.  Some of the gravitas is lost because of the heavy use of metaphors and similes that can be excessive in places. 

Much of the conversation between the two characters focuses on an event 25 years ago and the play feels like it is building to a climax of revealing exactly what took place all those years ago but that never quite happens. The duo allude to it but never explain in enough detail which can be frustrating for the audience unless they have a prior knowledge of the backdrop against which the play is set.  

Well performed by Pearse and Rigby in the confined space available, both actors exude strong emotions and Rigby in particular seems to capture the desperation felt by Anatoly and the passion in his words.  Both actors however need to speak slower and not allow the fast flowing dialogue to run away with them in the heat of the moment.  

This is an interesting show that has the potential to be a solid piece of drama with some work.  The characters are good and they have something to say that is worth hearing but more work is needed on how they say it to give the piece the impact it should have. 

- Ruth Lovett


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