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La Ronde review at the Bunker, London – ‘fortune is fickle’

The cast of La Ronde at the Bunker, London. Photo: Ray Burmiston
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In Max Gill’s aleatoric update of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 classic, it’s up to luck whether a particular character be a lady or a gentleman each night. The four actors trust the casting of each scene to the spin of a giant wheel, cast members’ faces affixed with velcro. Whoever’s face the wheel lands on plays the next scene regardless of their gender/ethnicity/sexuality.

The sentiment, that sex takes many forms these days, and that labels aren’t easy to pin down, is fine but fortune is fickle. On press night, by the penultimate scene, one of the cast hadn’t been picked at all. And the slow clattering of the wheel, always spinning slightly too long, becomes quickly tedious.

Ten parts between four actors allows the cast to display impressive versatility. Lauren Samuels and Amanda Wilkin slide into diverse characters with particular dexterity, coming to a head in a manic scene where they play ex-lovers stuck in a lift.

It’s a shame that the production persistently attempts to be funny. It’s only in fleeting moments that the comedy dissipates and something more profound, occasionally sinister, seeps in. In one scene between a grad student and his/her cleaner the power dynamic constantly tilts and shifts. But every time it darkens and deepens something yanks it back to the surface, back to frivolity.

It’s a frivolity at odds with the portentous transitions between scenes, the ritualistic spinning of the wheel. The comic seam also undermines the production’s driving force, that disregard for gender, ethnicity and sexuality. The production’s conceit is deadly serious, its execution far less so. Some superb performances certainly – Amanda Wilkin is fantastic – but the show ends up a comedy of manners. This wheel needs reinventing.

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Comedy ends up overwhelming this adaptation of Schnitzler’s classic