Directed by Louise Fischer
542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 9 August – 10 September
Conning may all be a game, but they’re called con-artists for a reason. It’s no mean feat to pull it off unscathed. Margaret, the Harvard-graduate celebrity psychologist, is a professional in high demand and is making a mint selling her psychology books. When one of her patients, Billy, introduces her to the House of Games, she is beguiled by the mystique of the conning game, and the charming con Mike. While the production starts out slow, the risky gambles, backstabbing and clever ploys drew me in, and got me guessing. An amusing play with the air of Ocean’s 11 or The Sting packs in psychological games, romance, and theatrical violence for an entertaining evening.
Katherine Shearer plays Dr Margaret Ford with unshakeable confidence and charm. She pulls off the psychology jargon with believability and compels the audience to barrack for her as she refuses to be outwitted by the cons, proving herself to be a formidable protagonist. Shearer also exposes a softer side, as she falls for Mike, a loveable rogue played by Ben Brock. They share a simmering chemistry. We meet the rest of the con team, who take on a myriad of disguises and characterisations in the name of the game. While this was entertaining, it also lacked consistency as accents were dropped and muddled. I enjoyed Charles Jones’ depiction of Billy, angst-ridden and depressed, and yet simultaneously rather humorous. He was one of the ‘criminals’ that possessed intriguing layers to his character and truly felt dangerous - a thrill. His time on the stage felt too brief. Hannah Day’s performance as Trudi is skilled, being utterly convincing as two polar-opposite personas.
It’s always a good time when a show has you earnestly attempting to unpack the plot, curious to find out what’s going to happen next. Will the crims get away with the game, or will justice prevail? Louise Fischer’s production of House of Games is successful in this regard and keeps the audience avidly engaged. Moreover, you really do end up caring about some of those characters. House of Games will get you hooked, it’s not a con.