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Games for Lovers review at the Vaults, London – ‘shallow and hollow’

The cast of Games for Lovers at the Vaults, London. Photo: Geraint Lewis

For a play all about relationships, Ryan Craig’s Games for Lovers has an astonishing lack of heart. It follows the trials and tribulations of four young urbanites – Jenny, whose predominant characteristic seems to simply be “the bitch”, who’s in an apparently doomed relationship with the solid bloke (until a head-poppingly abrupt turn into an entitled brute) Logan. Logan’s best friends with Martha, who’s unlucky in love, and she’s just become flatmates with Darren, a City boy with a heart of gold, despite her being desperately in love with Logan.

Quite aside from the fact that Craig’s play indulges in massively dated gender politics and uses multiple lazy, off-colour gags (an offhand joke about learning disabilities? Women calling each other “nasty skanks” in order to provoke titters from the audience?), it’s also a dramaturgical mess, jerking around from scene to scene, with seemingly zero interest in believable character progression if it means relinquishing a cheap laugh.

Anthony Banks’ production is full of obtrusive embellishments (a segment where the cast inexplicably rides around the set on scooters feels particularly galling) that do nothing but reveal the hollowness at the core of the piece.

The ensemble cast does its best with the material, with Billy Postlethwaite in particular imbuing the part of Darren with a nuance and pathos that is sorely lacking in the text, but it’s a losing battle.

Simon Scullion’s lurid, geometric playground design goes some way to suggest that these four lost souls still have some growing up to do – but it’s not enough to salvage this.

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A shallow and hollow exploration of love, dating and modern city life