FRINGE THEATRE – Games By Henry Naylor – HST – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

Henry Naylor has made quite a name for himself as the playwright for a series of works that resonate with contemporary issues – his Arabian Nightmares series will be long remembered. His presence over recent years at the Adelaide Fringe has proven to be one of the annual highlights.

In Games it is hoped that he is dealing with an issue that is behind us though certain aspects of current world politics may suggest it is not. Helene Mayer (Sophie Shad) is the 1928 Olympic fencing champion, a single minded pursuit that calls upon the strongest of nerves as well as determined training and talent. By 1936, she seeks to win gold again but now having a Jewish father clouds the scene. Gretel Bergman (Tessie Orange-Turner) is much younger, a school girl when she first meets Mayer, but her prowess is in more team minded pursuits but her goal is the same. As a proud Jew, she too is caught up in the ghastly games played by the Nazis to identify, shame, exclude before the Berlin Games.

Naylor carefully plots our way through the two women’s similarities and differences both of their own perspectives and of the way they are treated. While the outcome for Bergman is clear cut, that for Mayer is much more equivocal and sure to generate as much debate as his other works have done.

Tessie Orange-Turner is quite brilliant whether as the gangly school athlete, as angry as she is ambitious, or as the mature, more measured woman and mother, but especially as the former. She has an infectiously delightful demeanour that allows her character to both be a part of Hitler’s yet stand aside and then above it. After a slow start, Shad lifts as the focus turns on her character’s dilemmas at the 1936 games.

The set is plain but immediately evocative and the minimal soundscape adds greatly to the whole..

It all amounts to great theatre and not to be missed by serious theatre-goers this Adelaide Fringe.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

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