Awash with sexual chemistry, this new adaptation of La Ronde presents almost limitless possibilities.
Fizzing with energy and with over 3,000 casting possibilites, Max Gill’s new adaptation of La Ronde plays havoc with fate, giving all four performers the prospect of playing each and any role, depending on how the Wheel of Fortune turns.
Originally written by Schnitzler back in 1897 for his friends, and banned for being pornographic when finally performed in 1920, this play takes a fearless leap into the sexual desires, fears and longings of a succession of interlocking couples, and Gill has updated it superbly. His gender non-specific play allows any actor to play any scene, regardless of gender, sexuality or heritage, and the super-alertness and readiness required of actors facing this challenge results in an electrically charged and high-voltage performance from all four.
The only downside to this is, of course, that the Wheel of Fortune (designed here on a grand scale by Frankie Bradshaw) is notoriously fickle, and some performers may get better luck on the night. On this occasion the wonderful Leemore Marrett Jr remains on the sidelines, like a sub on the team bench, until the very last scene, when his drawling character gives a tantalizing glimpse into what else we may have missed.
But whichever way the casting falls, all four actors are on it.
Lauren Samuels’ eastern European cleaner is a brilliantly funny and engaging character, not least when she turns dominatrix. Alexander Vlahos gives a delicate and touching account of a man whose appointment with the cancer specialist takes an unusual turn, while Amanda Wilkin is a powerhouse of energy from first to last.
If the play itself doesn’t soak you with enough sex, there’s also a recorded soundtrack giving verbatim testimonies of the sexual history of Londoners, collected over months by director Gill, who clearly believes in thorough research.
All credit too, to Nathan Klein, for the immersive sound design and composition, and Jack Weir’s atmospheric lighting design, which reinforces the sense that life is all about gambling, and taking a chance which may, or may not, pay off.
On this occasion, it most certainly does.