This is an exciting event at this year’s Fringe. There’s a real dearth of immersive, site-specific and promenade theatre going on, despite Edinburgh’s wealth of interesting, ideal venues. Here we have a piece that offers all three, as well as the chance to explore some of the city’s rich history.
For those who love period drama, A Game of Death and Chance provides the opportunity to step inside one for a while. Set in Gladstone’s Land, a stunning 500-year-old National Trust tenement, we meet characters from Scotland’s past. If this were a straight play, or if there were many other shows to choose from in the immersive and promenade genre, this would not be so remarkable. But it is not and we don’t. So this easily stands out from the crowd, enabling us to forgive its flaws.
If you’ve ever journeyed through Edinburgh’s antastic immersive tourist attractions, such as Mary King’s Close, or the Dungeon, you’ll find this to be of a similar vein, in that we move from room to room, travelling through time, led by actors. Each character tells their story and interacts with audience members providing a good balance of drama and humour. It’s hugely atmospheric and detailed with excellent lighting and sound design, costume and props. Combine that with fully authentic period rooms, genuine furnishings (and even the smells these provide), it’s as close to experiencing time travel as you’ll get.
Our journey is well constructed, which is no surprise given the involvement of site-specific/immersive specialists Grid Iron Theatre Company. The action is well directed and the script is original, intelligent and thought-provoking if slightly difficult to follow at times. In terms of the acting, while it’s of high quality, it sometimes feels theatrical. We are close-up in small rooms, so arguably, a more filmic approach is needed to take this to a stellar five-star level. That’s not to say characters can’t be ‘big’ if the character would be. In fact the final – larger than life – character is one of the best. It’s more about being up-close real, rather than appearing ‘acted’. But with a lack of this genre happening locally, there’s little opportunity to hone this specific ultra-realistic, subtle style.
A Game of Death and Chance offers a unique, insightful and fascinating escape into history, during some of the most turbulent times in Scotland. Yet it looks to the past with forward-thinking theatre-making. It’s an inspired show concept and will certainly be one of my 2019 Fringe highlights.
You can see A Game of Death and Chance at Gladstones Land until 25th August at various times. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/