Theatre review: A Game Of Death And Chance, Gladstone’s Land, Edinburgh

A Game of Death and Chance
A Game of Death and Chance
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IF YOU visit a National Trust for Scotland property, you won’t be surprised to find someone in period costume chatting about life as it used to be lived. So it is in A Game Of Death And Chance, playing several times a day in the bedrooms and drawing rooms of Gladstone’s Land, but in the hands of Grid Iron director Ben Harrison, you get a better class of historical re-enactment.

A Game Of Death And Chance, Gladstone’s Land, Edinburgh ***

His theme is the turbulence of 17th-century Scotland, a period when religious ferment and failed colonial enterprise were followed by the Act of Union of 1707. At the top of a spiral staircase, a friendly and forthright Mary Gapinski welcomes us into her top-floor room where, as Lucky Lucy, she works as a minister’s maid. Jumping back and forth across the decades, she talks about Catholic-Protestant conflict and the plague of 1645. Cue David Paul Jones making a baroque appearance as Deith, complete with death mask and cloak, singing about miasma and pointing a chilling finger at fatalities to come.

The sequence of monologues continues with Mark Kydd as an enthusiastic Somerville, treating us as investors in Scotland’s ill-fated Darien scheme. In the next room we find Wendy Seager lying on the bed as an exhausted Caledonia, representing a nation defeated by circumstance, before Kevin Lennon’s bumptious Daniel Defoe attempts to charm us with the joys of North Britain.

The fact-heavy script is more illustrated lecture than full-blown drama, but it’s slickly put together and the performances are vigorous and engaging.

MARK FISHER

Until 8 September