The Dice House by Paul Lucas is a stage adaptation of the American cult classic novel “The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart. The premise of both the book and the play is that people are constricted by their personalities, and that rather than embracing life and all its chaotic coincidences as a futile game, people become increasingly psychotic because they attempt to create meaning out of life’s randomness.
In this comedy, psychiatrist Dr Ratner has come up with a bizarre ‘cure’ for those suffering from mental illness, which is to encourage them to embrace randomness and abandon the idea that they have control over their lives. He has set up a commune -The Dice House- for his patients; where he advises them to make all their decisions, no matter how vital, depend upon the roll of dice. The results of this experiment grow ever more hilariously bizarre as mad people find themselves increasingly adrift in an amoral chaotic quagmire.
The sceptical psychiatrist Dr Drabble, is concerned about the ‘well-being’ of his wife Polly, who has moved into the maverick Dr Ratner’s commune. In a crude attempt to kidnap her, Dr Drabble forcibly recruits Matthew, one of his patients, by threatening to have him sectioned for life in a mental institution if he does not co-operate.
At the commune Matthew discovers that Dr Ratner dresses in women’s clothing, Polly insists on shaving his pubic hairs, and the unfortunate Smith, who is apparently suffering from paranoia – caused by his sexually sadistic past- befalls one unfortunate mishap after another at the hands of the black-robed Slow Assassins. This dark farce develops pace as it gallops from one absurdity to the next, ending with suicide, a beheading, a revengeful wife and Matthew falling in love with his soul mate Lisa.
Jeremy Crutchley excels as Dr Drabble, the blackmailing psychiatrist. He creates a marvellous comic mixture of gleeful malevolence that is perfect for this tongue-in-cheek black farce. Matthew Noble as the innocent and vulnerable Matthew and Lucy Scott as Polly, the upper class housewife turned tart, add to the surrealism of the play, especially in the hilarious pubic hair-shaving scene.
Neil Boorman as the unfortunate Smith - who is plagued by the ‘Slow Assassins’ - delights with his mixture of resignation and disbelief at each of his character’s misfortunes. The one disappointment is the character of Dr Ratner, played by Neal Foster. Although the character is humorous, it fails to emerge as dark and menacing. As it is there is too much of the inapt madcap quality to Dr Ratner that keeps this comedy firmly rooted in light-hearted farce rather than dark-hearted comedy.
Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable evening of insane fun!
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “An evening of intermittent but unusual fun." IAN SHUTTLEWORTH for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Any twists and turns of plotting can be easily ascribed to a dice decision, and it all works really rather well." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, " Fails to sustain the sense of urgency that’s vital for farce." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, " Occasionally inspired farcical comedy."