Friday 23rd March 2012 at Unity Theatre, Liverpool and Wednesday 4th July 2012 at Grantham Guildhall Arts Centre.
Spike Theatre’s The Games, produced in association with Unity Theatre, Liverpool and The Met, Bury, was an absolute joy. So much so that I saw it twice! Written by the original company Liam Tobin, Jamie Wood and Lauren Silver (with additional material from this cast), The Games was a cleverly written new comedy hilariously brought to life through brilliant comic performances and direction. The narrative of this three hander (starring Liam Tobin, Mark Keemar Smith and Keddy Sutton) followed the tale of Hermaphrodite, a young woman residing in Ancient Greece in 776BC, just as the Olympic Games are to begin. Being a woman, she is forbidden to take part but the death of her father spurs her on to use ‘gifts from the gods’ to fulfil her dream and to break the boundaries of her gender. This production remains very fresh in my memory, likely owing heavily to the memorable visuals but also because of how enjoyable the ingenuity of the company was.
The biggest strength of this production was that the comedic elements used were vastly varied and perfectly landed each and every time – the rehearsal for this production must have been incredibly intense, although they certainly made their efforts appear effortless on stage. I laughed A LOT at this show. The cast were fearless in their pursuit of belly laughs, donning prosthetic genitalia, taking part in an oily slip and slide slapstick sequence and musical numbers (music by Toby Park and Lauren Silver with lyrics by the original cast), complete with twirling ribbons and big finales. Directors Mark Smith and John Garfield Roberts placed heavily emphasis on physical comedy, with plenty of slapstick, visual puns and hilarious approaches to the various challenges of delivering this outlandish narrative. Each and every feat was a visual treat and made exceptionally good use of a simple devices and precise comic timing. The cast were also adept multi rolers, transitioning between roles with speed and versatility, and the company’s use of miniatures, prosthetics and one brilliant attachment to give the impression of a grown man playing an infant were inspired choices.
I distinctly remember the fantastic use of a shadow cloth to portray Hermaphrodite’s emotional and physical troubles with the appendage she is gifted from the gods and various other visual gags. There is a romantic connection which gives way to more hilarity as Hermaphrodite’s love interest is faced with a decision to make about who should keep what in the underwear department for an acceptable relationship in times before Pride Parades and free love. The Games also poked fun at gender stereotypes with gay abandon and to great effect; Hermaphrodite putting the ‘real men’ to shame by effortlessly making fires, defeating predators and lifting an entire tree up single handedly made gender politics genuinely funny.
The script was genius in its word play and clever twists on faux historical expertise, rationalising events through pompous explanations dotted with rib tickling one liners. There was a hilarious song to dad from Hermaphrodite to showcase Keddy Sutton’s musical ability while Liam Tobin was gifted with monologues which used almost every chocolate bar and supermarket known to man to weave famous tales Olympic figures. Also of note is the funny little sequence playing on a dyslexic announcer’s spelling and the auditory correlation with an unfamiliar language. That said, the company beautifully combined modern idioms, colloquialisms and sudden shocking profanity with the affected regal delivery of lines from an ancient time to produce something genuinely fresh and enthralling for the ears.
The comedy in The Games was seamless throughout and particularly excelled in the way each element was beautifully patch worked together to create a thoroughly engaging and hilarious production that I didn’t want to end. I’m giving it five stars after all this time precisely because the show remains so memorable and still raises a smile when I think of how gleefully silly it was while remaining decisively clever in construction. If this show were to be resurrected, I would absolutely be first in line for tickets!