The Gin Game

Thursday, 29 April, 1999

This lightweight play is set in an old people's home and concerns 'Weller Martin', an ill-tempered man who befriends a new resident, the puritanical 'Fonsia Dorsey'. They develop a friendship, but this soon turns nasty when 'Weller' invites 'Fonsia' to play gin rummy with him. 'Weller' is an expert at gin, but soon becomes distraught when the rookie 'Fonsia' keeps winning! It is while they are playing the game that their secrets, fears and past are revealed in an 'almost' violent fashion.

"The Gin Game" is a delightful play that has a beautiful repartee between the characters that is quaint. The play develop the characters skilfully so as to reveal their torments and deceptions. Losing at gin agitates Weller because it confirms his inner thoughts in which he believes he is a loser. We draw this conclusion when we discover he is divorced and his three children do not visit him, and his business failed leaving him penniless. The holier than thou 'Fonsia' is broken down when it is revealed, during her fights with 'Weller', that she was a bitter lady who could not forgive her son for visiting his father who left her when he was two years old. Now she too is penniless and does not receive visitors. Whilst there is no romance between the characters what does develop is a relationship that is to open old wounds and put the past to rest.

Joss Ackland as the cantankerous 'Weller' produces a fine and solid performance. This is Ackland's first time in the West End since his performance in "Never the Sinner" in 1990. The likeable Dorothy Tutin, who plays 'Fonsia', equals him on stage. Both these actors click on stage which makes the play work.

The show received reasonable reviews from the popular. NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Tutin and Ackland can't make this rum old play winner" and goes on to say "It's more of an outline sketch than the real, developed dramatic thing". BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says " The only good game in town" and goes on to say " Even a crazily barking laughing boy in the first-night audience did not spoil my enjoyment of Frith Banbury's production". Kate Bassett of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, " Ackland and Tutin give performances of great assured ease and comic wit, managing to be endearing without too much cuteness and slush."

"The Gin Game" is not a classic play, nor is it gripping or very funny for that matter. It is though, a pleasant drama that is not too taxing and makes for a delightful 90 minutes of light entertainment.

(Darren Dalglish)

Looking for the best seats...