A Game of Death and Chance @ Gladstones Land, Edinburgh

This interactive and immersive production at Gladstones Land is strengthened by stellar performances

Review by Elaine Reid | 24 Jul 2019
  • A Game of Death and Chance @ Gladstones Land, Edinburgh

Down a close, across some cobblestones, through a locked door, and up a steep stone spiral staircase, the journey to the location of A Game of Death and Chance, written by Ben Harrison, takes its audience back in time to 17th century Scotland. Co-directed by Harrison and Allie Winton Butler, and set in one of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile at Gladstones Land, the intimate and immersive 45-minute production introduces you to a host of characters who take you back to some of the most difficult days in Scotland’s history. 

In each room, you encounter a new host who, through a series of selections made by the audience – via a tankard or card selected, or number rolled on a dice – tell a different story. 

With only a few seats in each room, the audiences are kept small, meaning that interactions with the characters feel familiar and authentic. Mary Gapinski as Lucky Lucy is animated and enchanting as the story begins with James VI of Scotland and his penchant for burning witches to cleanse the land. The award-winning composer and vocalist David Paul Jones is haunting as Deith, wandering eerily through the room in a long hooded cloak before performing an evocative song. 

Moving on through the building, we find Somerville, who lived in this very house in the late 16th century. Played by Mark Kydd, he describes his backing of the Darien Scheme – an ultimately unsuccessful attempt by Scotland to become a world trading estate. In another room, Caledonia, played with vigour by Wendy Seager, expresses despair at how Scotland has, with the act of Union of 1707, become at the mercy of its English neighbours. 

Finally, we meet Daniel Defoe, played charismatically by Kevin Lennon. As a spy for the English government living in Edinburgh during the Act of Union, Defoe’s disdain for the Scots is overwhelming, and the cup of English tea offered does little to sweeten the sour taste left in the mouth. As Caledonia bursts through the door and screams “freedom”, the call for the country to act feels as poignant now as it did then. 

Gladstone’s Land, until Sun 8 September