Chess, dramatised – ‘The Gambit’

The Gambit
Written and directed by Mark Reid
Cast: Anatoly [played by] BEN RIGBY, Gary [played by] NICK PEARSE

I caught a performance of this new 50 minute play at the Manvers Street Baptist Church in Bath. It originated in Manchester and it is interesting that another chess-related play is opening, also in Manchester, in July. That one concerns the match between Kasparov and the machine Deep Blue, called ‘The Machine’.

The action takes place 25 years after the two World Champions had last met. It explores the breakdown in the relationship between two close friends. Thus, there is no attempt or intention for it to be historically accurate. They meet in Anatoly’s home and the set is minimal – just two chairs, a table, chess board and chess set. As they talk, they play what is clearly the last game of their 1985 match. They stopped playing the moves quite early after about move 18. Whether this was to symbolise that the conflict in their relationship had not been resolved, or whether the actors found it too difficult to remember the moves, I cannot say.

This is a difficult, interesting and well-acted play. Mark’s minimalist approach is deliberate – he believes plays often have an expensively complex structure. If you are a theatregoer and the play is running near you, do go to see it.

4-6 July 2013 at The Old Clubhouse, Buxton
17-20 July 2013 at Briton’s Protection, Manchester

– Stewart Reuben

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