Park Theatre presents the World Premiere of Winner’s Curse.
By Daniel Taub with Dan Patterson. Directed by Jez Bond.
On a personal note. It was my first time at the Park theatre, in Finsbury Park. A delightful converted warehouse. It will not be my last. The seats are arranged above and around the stage. There are various entrances / exits and the stage has a revolving section to make sure that all the audience experience the full acting experience.
The winner’s curse introduced us to the art of Negotiation, between Two countries that are locked in battle over a strip of land. There is a fragile ceasefire declared. But for a limited time only. Now a chance for key people to sit around a negotiating table, along with cynical diplomats, self-centred peacemakers and over the top mediators to try and navigate a perilous path to an agreement as the threat of continued conflict looms ever larger. The countries being Karvistan and Moldonia.
We see the whole process through the eyes of our lecturer for the evening Hugo Leitski (Clive Anderson) Hugo is a renowned diplomat and peace negotiator, As the play starts Hugo comes on to give us a lecture and immediately, connects with the audience and makes us feel at ease. As the play progresses he can be seen walking on and off the stage as the actors play out the action from his memories and of his particular negotiation processes.
We were not left to just watch the negotiation process, but often invited to take part in audience tasks, to further illustrate how we negotiate in our everyday lives. I enjoyed this a lot. I could see others of the audience not so keen. Others though took full advantage of being able to show off their negotiating skills. There were various invited celebrities to this world premiere, that quite enjoyed watching us mere mortals shine for a while.
The show embraces various stereotypes, with General Marek Gromski (Barrie Rutter) being very much a person who likes to drink and likes the woman just as much. He was often seen charming them with his deep North of England voice. The Black Lagoon Lodge, where the negotiations are taking place as booked by Hugo is not as grand as either negotiating party was expecting. But the landlady Vaslika Krenskaya (Nichola McAuliffe) played her part so well and would often drop the ‘V’ at the beginning of her name to allow us to hear the full impact. Funny in name, funny in nature. Often found myself laughing out loud as she stole most scenes she was in.
The young Hugo (Arthur Conti) who was making his professional debut was very good, accessing a masterclass from his co-star Michael Maloney who played Anton Korsakov. Korsakov, Head of Negotiations for Karvistan, had his own agenda by the end of the play. Between him and the Young Hugo we could see how Korsakov when from toleration of the young Hugo, to acceptance. Hugo, who was just starting out and learning the trade of negotiation, seemed to have no idea what to do at first and would often forget a vital point or book something totally inappropriate.
As the deadlock sets in and both sides cannot reach a settlement so along come the calvary. In the form of chief American mediator Tyler (Greg Lockett). Although he was there to help find a solution to the deadlock he almost threatens to upset an already delicate balance, and it isn’t long before he starts recommending wild and wacky solutions.
The other characters on stage were Rozhina Flintok (Winnie Arhin), the sole female negotiator, who is there to make sure the General does not let down the motherland. With all the funny one liners, interaction with the audience and trying out our negotiating skills on each other in the theatre and during the interval as instructed by Hugo the elder (Clive Anderson), we were not treated to a small insight as to what the play was about until a little later in the second act when Korsakov talks emotionally with Leitski about the implications of negotiating at various levels. (Personal, professional, national and international).
I felt that the play could have had some of the parts removed and made it a one act play. Some scenes were non-constructive and added no more to the plot. Although I enjoyed the humour and visual comedy, The humour was present a little too much and deflected slightly from the seriousness of some of the scenes, or did I get it wrong and there were none?
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, the play and the actors in their various roles. It is a funny play, excellent cast and a lovely theatre in which it is set. So please if you find a night when you are at a loose end then this play will cheer up the night and will be a pleasurable escape.
4 stars out of 5 for me.