Game is the gloriously geeky, hilariously irreverent debut show from newly formed company Unstable King, bringing their innovative mix of circus skills, encyclopaedic gaming knowledge, and rapid fire puns to the studio stage of the Bristol Old Vic for Bristol’s Circus City Festival. As a gaming enthusiast myself, seeing a theatre company prepared to champion gaming as the artistic and sociable endeavour that it’s become, I have high hopes for the piece. I am not disappointed.
It is, for example, always a promising sign when a company wins over an audience before they’ve got through the door, but Unstable King’s written manifesto, distributed among the audience before entering, goes a long way to achieving that goal. Like the show, it is both funny and accessible, and establishes the performers as strong ambassadors for the gaming industry. If there is any resistance left, it is surely overcome by the presence of the company’s other main project, the ‘Cardboard Arcade’. This is a custom built platform installed at various points around the building, where patrons can try gaming for themselves first-hand, and the post-show competition run on these give the audience a chance to experience the curious bonding process of gaming with strangers.
The show itself feels most like a series of short sketches, a rapid fire montage of gaming and pop-culture references, with the jokes coming thick and fast and invariably hitting their mark with the audience. Some feature traditional circus skills, such as some well-executed hat juggling, or some surprisingly adept (considering the relaxed tone of the majority of the performance) acro work. One of the highlights is the recurrent technique of playing games as part of the performance, in which small, diverting competitions are played out before the audience, with wince-inducing forfeits for the loser, such as being shot with a paint-ball gun. The audience is encouraged to take part in one or two of these ‘side-quests’, as they put it (thankfully without the forfeits), giving the whole venture a wonderful sense of complicity and involvement in the piece.
In terms of structure, the piece could benefit from a little tightening around the edges. While the whole piece has a somewhat chaotic feel, and this largely works well for them, some scenes, particularly the exclusively spoken sections, feel a little directionless and unpolished. They are, on the whole, undeniably very funny, but have a slightly baggy feel that one feels could be easily remedied by a few small edits and a bit of polish on the delivery. Overall, however, the play is a thoroughly enjoyable celebration of the excitement, passion, fun, and friendship of modern gaming, executed with a refreshing and unashamed individuality. A great evening out, and I very much look forward to seeing what this company has next in the pipeline. 4/5
Review written by James Adams.
Game is currently showing at the Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 24th October. For more information on the production, visit here…