Theatre review: Pause With A Smile | Money - The Game Show

PAUSE WITH A SMILE / MONEY - THE GAME SHOW THE ARCHES, GLASGOW ****

THE two winners of this year's Arches Platform 18 Award for new work are not plays in the conventional sense. Yet if you fail to catch them – at the Arches until Saturday, or at the Traverse next week – then you will miss a real feast of fine writing, memorable acting, and cutting-edge theatre that manages to offer both a deep seriousness about the world in which we live, and a true sense of fun and play.

Gareth Nicholls's Pause With A Smile is a 50-minute piece about chance and coincidence, presented as a two-handed address to the audience by key Arches writer/performers Gary McNair and Kieran Hurley. The set is a comfortable-looking living-room, full of slightly nostalgic bits and pieces; and from this space, McNair and Hurley – who make an extraordinarily powerful double-act – begin to talk to us about strange coincidences, and about what they might mean. Some of the stories are silly, some tragic, some moving, and the audience is often invited to join in. Given the quality of Nicholls's writing, though, the final effect is profound; as if the existence of strange coincidences offered to our faithless times a last shred of possibility that behind the apparent chaos, some greater pattern of meaning is working itself out.

Clare Duffy's Money – The Game Show is a fiercely showbiz affair by comparison, a one-hour journey through the madness of the global financial system hosted with terrific flair by Brian Ferguson and Pauline Lockhart as a pair of ex-hedge-fund managers introducing us to their craft, in a journey that involves a promenade through the Arches building, followed by a hilarious and tragic game-show finale involving plenty of audience participation.

Once again, the writing glitters with an unexpected brilliance. There are flashes of real drama and poetry in the interaction between the characters; and the final message, when it comes, is as serious as it is damning, and alarming.