Gangsters, murder, handmade scones! After A Night on the Tiles, I’m sure I’ll never feel the same about a game of Sunday afternoon Scrabble again.
Revolving around a game of high-stakes Scrabble, played by tea-swilling gangsters of legendary skill, A Night on the Tiles is performed by five men whom the programme describes variously as spoken word artists and poets. Originally developed by Pen-Ultimate at Contact Theatre, and now showing at The Albany, this multimedia marvel incorporates elements of video and animation, as well as dance and rhyme. It’s a farce, it’s a mystery; it’s deathly serious, but it’s entirely silly.
With so many things at play, A Night on the Tiles could easily have felt overwrought. But, much to the credit of everyone involved, it was an hour of quick-paced, well-conceived, laugh-out-loud entertainment.
The set and stage looked simple – a board painted on the floor, adorned by a few key set pieces and props, and decorated like a sparser version of the stereotypical Grandma’s living room. But, once the play started going, it became quickly apparent that each piece was there to perform a multitude of functions. Similarly, with all the action, the wordplay, the dance numbers, the video, it is clear that A Night on the Tiles has been meticulously crafted. That it seems so casual, so effortless, so off-the-cuff is all down to the actors.
Scroupier, the game’s referee (Niven Gannier), occasionally turns to acknowledge the audience’s reactions to his antics. And he plays his central role with absolute finesse, rhyming with ease. Samira Arhin-Acquaah, who plays Scrabble zen-master, Triple Word, is a also a joy to watch as he smoothly saunters through karate moves, dances, word-play, and of course, that all-important Scrabble game.
The audience was rowdy throughout this performance, delighting in each twist, turn and verse. A Night on the Tiles struck a perfect balance as its characters took language and games extremely seriously, but the production allowed the audience to laugh, offering everything up as a joke. After this display of fun and skill, I’m pretty sure it’s not just Scrabble this A Night on the Tiles has changed.
A Night on the Tiles played at The Albany Theatre, for more information and other shows, see their website here.