14 April 2015

Game Theory at Tristian Bates Theatre addressed some difficult topics adroitly

To be honest, what first attracted me to Game Theory was my assumption that it had something to do with Mathematics - Game Theory was one of the topics that I studied at university. Further investigation revealed that Game Theory was two plays looking at current ethical issues in medicine. That was interesting enough for me.

It was not a big factor in choosing to go to see the plays but the ticket price of just £12 made it an even easier decision to make.

The Tristian Bates Theatre is Central London so obviously I planned to work in London that day and to stroll down after work. Then plans changed and I had to go to Reading which meant dashing there by bus, train and tube instead. Not ideal but it worked OK and in something of the style of a marathon runner I grabbed a pastie at Reading Station and then a beer at the theatre cafe.

As before, my only previous visit to the theatre, I was well positioned when the bell summoned us upstairs for the first play but this time it was a harder choice to make as seating was set up on one side of the stage as well as in front of it. The seats at the side seemed to offer a better view of the stage so I took a front row seat there.

The first play, Membrane, addressed the tricky subject of hymenoplasty (hymen reconstruction). A middle-aged woman approached her doctor to get the surgery done. They knew each other and had been lovers once.

This situation was somewhat artificial, and the play suffered as a result, but it did allow the two of them to explore different aspects of the issue, for example he saw the restoration of her virginity as a denial of their earlier relationship.

From this starting point the theme of deception spread in many directions, from make-up to blow-fish, and brought in the doctor's academic wife in the process. This further reduced the believability of the play but also added to its interest.

Membrane was in three acts, which fooled me and I started to clap after the second. My argument is that if the play felt it was ending then, then it probably should have done so!

Membrane managed to provoke some thoughts and to entertain despite the falseness of some of its premises. A fair result.

It was time for a break and another Japanese larger in the bar downstairs before being summoned back for Mutiny. This was a completely different play but written by the same person, Odessa Celt, and performed by the same cast, Andrew Pugsley, Nadia Shash and Georgina Blackledge.

This story was about a young couple with a new baby discussing the possibility of getting her genetically tested. This would have to be done privately and was not cheap. The father saw this as an opportunity to build the baby's environment to suit their genetic predispositions (making the nurture support the nature) while the mother was not keen to learn what their new baby was likely to die of.

As in the first play, the discussion on the benefits and disadvantages of genetic testing developed and this time the arguments were more focused on just the matter in hand and were helped by having clear protagonists on either side of the argument. The problem for me was that it was not an argument that I was particularly interested in.

Mutiny got its name from the woman's reaction when she appears to give in to the father but had something else in mind. Unfortunately that something was rather obvious and the father should not only have seen it coming, he should have suggested it.

After the second play there was a second interval before the panel session on hymenoplasty. I had not realised that was on, it may have explained the large number of young women in the audience, and I decided to give it a miss. Not only was hymenoplasty a subject that I had no great interest in, I had even less knowledge of it and the thought of being the odd-one-out in the audience did not appeal, that is alright when watching a play but much less so when discussing a difficult gender-heavy subject.

Writing this now, some weeks after the event, I am a little surprised at how negative some of this seems, perhaps I just remember the "bad" parts better, as it was a fine, if not spectacular, evening at the theatre and that is all that I wanted it to be.

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