Spoofing for Gordon tells the slightly improbable story of four 30-something friends who gather to honour a decade-old pact: in order to decide which of them must assist the fifth member of the gang commit suicide, they must play a game of Spoof. The awkwardness of this set-up transfers itself to the production, which never quite finds its feet, although it raises some interesting questions.
‘Spoof’, for those of you who don’t know, is a gambling game in which each player must guess how many coins are concealed in the other players’ hands. Normally the loser would buy the next round of drinks; here, Simon, Adam, Chris or Suzie must go upstairs and help the terminally-ill Gordon swallow a cup of poison. The atmosphere in the room is understandably a little tense. The room itself is well designed by Clotilde Lataille, who has picked up on the mixture of the mundane and surreal in the play’s central premise by daubing the kitchen background on the wall in splotchy white paint.
The tension isn’t helped by the awkward history of the group – Adam and Suzie were once a couple; Simon has been quietly, unrequitedly in love with Gordon since the friends first met. With what seems like saintly self-sacrifice, Simon has moved into Gordon’s home to look after him, planting tomatoes in the garden and painting the walls magnolia white. He is gentle and timid, a bit of a hand-wringer, the complete opposite of Adam, who turns up late after a “fucking nightmare” of a drive up the motorway and begins obnoxiously crunching through the digestive biscuits, waiting to get the game over with. As the night goes on, long-held antagonisms and carefully-guarded secrets reveal themselves, disrupting the friends’ plans, and their attempts to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing become more and more desperate.
This desperation is seen most sharply in Rajan Sharma, who gives the most dynamic performance of the night as Adam, and whose direction should also praised for preventing the play becoming static when the majority of its action takes place around the kitchen table. The personality clash between Adam and Simon is accentuated by their portrayals – while Sharma’s Adam is clearly a tight coil of repressed anger as he slumps at the table or against the wall, Jaymes Aaron as Simon simply seems to be in constant mild pain, judging by his eyebrows. It’s a bit of a struggle for him to come across as sympathetic, given some of the laboured jokes and lengthy expositional reminiscences that he has to contend with in Duncan Battman’s script, but he’s helped by Michelle McKay’s kind and sensible Suzie in their scenes together. Alberto Santangelo’s adorably wide-eyed Chris uses a lot of English colloquialisms for someone with such a hefty Italian accent, but this is quite sweet – KinkyFish is a small company, and it’s a quirk that gives the production character.
There are flaws in the script – wet puns, wordy descriptions, far too many unlikely dramatic reversals and coincidences. That said, Battman’s writing can be smart. The ending is brave and packs a good punch. While the production didn’t feel entirely assured, there are plenty of engaging moments and it’s not a bad attempt at exploring a complex subject.
Spoofing for Gordon played at the Hen and Chickens Theatre