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Dealer's Choice at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber was first performed in 1995 and as Made In Northampton's latest show, the subject matter is as relevant today as it was then. Maybe more so, just perhaps the development of poker playing having moved from the downstairs or backroom establishment into the more "socially acceptable" online fraternity.


Dealer's Choice has six, all male, very distinct characters and the cast are all exemplary in their individual roles. Be it the glorious wide boy chancer Mugsy (Cary Crankson, who has the best character of the play), or the chef Sweeney (Carl Prekopp, sounding more than a touch like Del Boy) and onto Ash (Ian Burfield, the late addition to the poker table), these are all characters rounded and individual that you have probably met yourself at sometime.

The production is honest to its original time setting, with prices of public conveniences and heavy duty mobile phones the order of the day. Presumably the original script is untouched, but as previously said, this never feels dated.

The first act takes place in a split stage of two rooms; the kitchen and the dining room, and is clearly and very cleverly switched by sharp sounds and light switching. A very impressive touch.

The second act gets down to the nitty gritty of the poker game itself, and while this does have a touch of poker lingo, this never gets in the way of the storytelling. The games themselves are well played out and are quite superb, the choreographed sped-up game plays are a joy. I would be fascinated to know whether the cards were all correctly named on the table, those in the circle and beyond will surely know.

The two sets were clear and clean, but with actually quite a lot of stuff to manage in the kitchen part. While the cellar of the second act was exactly everything you would imagine of a dingy set-up illicit poker venue. Music use, while minimal, was as sharp and solid as the dialogue.

The performance I got to see, thanks to a competition win (I have a paid ticket for Thursday) was the final preview, however everything was clean and sorted ahead of the big guest night performance tonight and its a play that I would heartily recommend if you can cope with the dark humour and strong language that this play brings to the table. I am all in!


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