This story is really all about a game of chess, and I never thought I’d say this, but it is much more interesting then that might sound.
B, yes, just B, is onboard the SS Triumphant to New York City in 1939 when he ends up challenging esteemed world chess champion Mirko Czentovic to a game of chess. The game sparks a chain reaction of memories in B’s mind, and he tries to remember how he got to be in the depths of this ship.
The thing about B is there’s four of him, played here by Julian Spooner, Mathew Wells and Roisin O’Mahony and percussionist Fred McLaren. Gradually, we discover how he got to be here and also how he got be such a master at chess, as we journey through B’s memories. He (all four of him) struggles to hang on to the truth, from Vienna in 1937 where he was an accountant trying to do some good, the annexation by Germany, solitary confinement, interrogation by the Gestapo and the psychological strain that forces his brain to fracture into four.
With intricate physical movement, enactment and a lot of humour, these three actors, plus the genius stroke of one percussionist, map out on the stage the inside of this man’s broken mind. It’s like watching the cogs whirring, as B grapples for his memories and identity. Based on The Royal Game, a novella, published in 1942 by Austrian-Jewish exile Stefan Zweig, this show captures the essence of what goes on in the mess of our minds.
64 Squares is playing at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) from 19-30 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information, visit the festival website.