During the current global political climate, one might think twice about premiering a new comedy play about peace negotiations between two rival fictional Eastern European states. However, with incredibly clever and witty writing, and a fantastic cast to deliver it, Winner’s Curse becomes a clever Satirical piece that playfully pokes more fun at the issues we are facing in the UK, rather than focus on the current political agendas in Eastern Europe.
The partnership between the writing team of Daniel Taub(former member of Israel’s negotiation team) and Dan Patterson(Mock the Week, Whose Line Is It Anyway)has managed to weave a very slick fast-moving piece, with bucket-loads of comedic moments but also a very poignant ending.
Clive Anderson (Whose Line Is It Anyway, Have I Got News for You) plays Hugo Leitski, a somewhat narrator through this piece, using his experience to help the audience move through the story, while bringing his expert improvisational skills to interact with the audience to demonstrate the methods of negotiations that the characters will be using in future scenes. Anderson’s effortless ability to command an audience and his wonderful use of comedy at the precise moment helps to create the perfect flow of the production.
The quartet of negotiators were performed fantastically. Winnie Arhin as Rozhina, Barrie Rutter as Gromski, Michael Maloney as Korsakov and Arthur Conti as Young Leitski worked wonders together. In situations which were very wordy and could cause audiences to get lost, they found the comedy to snap the audience back into the moment. A powerhouse performance by all four, however, a special mention must be handed to Arthur Conti in his professional Stage debut. If this performance is anything to go by, Conti has a very long and illustrious career ahead of him.
Greg Lockett created a lovely contrasting character with Tyler, as the stereotypical political American who swoops in at the last minute to be the hero and save the day. His performance was delivered with the sort of aplomb you would expect from this stereotype, and created some brilliant comedy moments.
With such a strong cast, to have a stand-out performer might appear to devalue the performances of the others, however, Nichola McAuliffe as Madame Vaslika was the rare standout performer that compliments her fellow actors. She had a way of finding the right tempo for each scene to bring the absolute best out of it. It was one of those moments that when you saw McAuliffe approach the performance space, you knew to expect something hilarious, and it was executed with precision.
Isobel Nicolson should also be mentioned for the set design and Jez Bond for directing the piece. The simplicity of the set was wonderfully brought to life through the complexity of its use.
Overall, Winner’s Curse is a fantastic night of entertainment, with wonderful comedy, incredibly clever writing and a superbly stellar cast.
It runs until 11 March.
Review: Joshua Thompson Photos: Alex Brenner