Games and After Liverpool review at Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh – ‘gently absurdist gems’
Games and After Liverpool are two short, slippery plays by the rarely revived James Saunders, here given a simple, bare bones staging by Blind Elephant.
Both plays are modest, gently absurdist gems. After Liverpool is essentially a series of chopped up, wonderfully observed, elliptical conversations between two couples, exploring the difficulty of genuine communication in relationships. Passive-aggressive questions are answered with passive-aggressive questions. Offence is taken when it's not intended. Everyone ends up unhappy.
Blind Elephant's decision to determine roles – as with Rob Icke's Mary Stuart – at the flip of a coin is a smart one, and the young ensemble invest the oblique, repetitious dialogue with an easy, off-the-cuff charm.
Games is more daring, more playful, toying with the potential of theatre to change the world. It reconstructs a rehearsal room – a director and three actors working through a drama about the My Lai massacre – then insistently reframes itself, building a teetering, titillating meta-theatrical framework. Are they going off script? Is this part of the play? Has it ended yet?
Again, the four-strong cast find a cheerful, knockabout vibe, capturing Saunders' deliciously impish humour well. This an intelligent double bill, proficiently staged. It's bitesize theatre. Something to chew on with your morning coffee.