Game Theory is a double bill of two plays Membrane and Mutiny by writer Odessa Celt and directed by Lois Jeary.
The first of the two plays Membrane, is set in a consultant’s office, the first few moments capturing the awkwardness and society small talk. We as the audience are then hit with the realisation that the patient Halima (Nadia Shash) and Consultant Paul (Andrew Pugsley) know each other very well. “Most women choose a Doctor they don’t know” Paul tells Halima. This is because Halima has come for a consultation on a hymenoplasty, a procedure to reconstruct the hymen. Halima comes across calculating and efficient, her duty to what is expected of her as a Muslim British-Arab wife holding a heavy burden that Shash animates impressively.
Paul considering his job, is interestingly against Halima having the hymenoplasty procedure throwing every weapon in his arsenal that sees a tug of power between the two actors that unfolds with fire. The cultural reasons of Halima’s argument do come across almost like facts rather than in built beliefs like a lecturer to a class, which could come down to the script rather than Shash. The plot twist for Paul’s stubbornness against carrying out the procedure is that Halima and himself lost their virginities to each other when they were teenagers, to which the cool and collected Halima says “I gave you my virginity now I want you to give it back”. Halima says she can enter paradise if her good deeds outweigh the bad, which would evidently include appearing a virgin on her Wedding night.
Pugsley is very convincing as the smitten Paul who puts a more human spin on the situation that wrestles feminism, cultural expectations and a procedure that poses so many questions. Perhaps his rose tinted view of Halima has made Paul weak, but this plot device has added to the tension between the two characters and has made a topical play relatable as well as thought provoking to the audience.
Both characters actions are made out of a desperation, one for cultural acceptance, the other love. They both take advantage of the vulnerabilities that each other are battling. As much as the religious and cultural impact of having an operation such as hymenoplasty will be significant, Halima has emotional needs as does everyone. Paul asks Halima of her future husband (who interestingly doesn’t get much of a mention) “Will he still love you when you are 76?” and my answer would be is it such a loss if he doesn’t?
The Second Play Mutiny is set in the not so distant future where newborn genomic coding is offered to the parents of a newborn, so they can essentially know the future health conditions their child will / won’t endure. Emma ( Georgina Blackledge) and Charlie (Andrew Pugsley) are the couple who are still in the aftermath of Emma’s labour when offered the test, that has to be signed by both parents..on an ipad ( this is 21st century afterall).
The test rather than holding the answers to any questions, opens a can of worms so to speak with the couples relationship. Blackledge in particular captures the realism of just giving birth superbly, having to be overcome fatigue to argue the reasons she is against the genomic coding with her strong willed husband.
The Director Lois Jeary makes good use of the theatre space with Pugsley’s exasperation letting him pace around the space that really heightened his performance as Charlie spouted the reasons he believed their son should have genomic coding. Convinced that his wife and himself could discover “allergies and cancer’s” their son will develop, Emma would rather “give him the choice”.
As the play progresses we discover some of the reasons for both spouses extreme views. The couple have had to endure the pain of a stillborn daughter as well as watching Emma’s father dying of Motor Neurone Disease. As an audience we are encouraged to sympathise in this unique situation, in particular with Emma who writer Odessa Celt has made the protagonist and Blackledge certainly gives a heart wrenching performance.
The two plays Membrane and Mutiny although exploring modern and topical medical procedures, both capture humanity at it’s most fragile. Of course scientific development is what moves society forward, but the creative duo of Odessa Celt and Lois Jeary show the ethical repercussions of its development in an engaging and fresh production.
Tristan Bates Theatre 31st March -18th April 2015
Photos Camilla Whitehill