Review – The Powers That Be, Tangled Spines Theatre Company, University of Northampton Flash Festival, St Peter’s Church, Northampton, 25th May 2017

Tangled SpinesI’d never heard of Luke Rhinehart’s best-selling book The Dice Man – so I came to Tangled Spines’ homage to the story without any preconceptions. To live one’s life purely by chance is a most terrifying thing, as Rhinehart’s self-named lead character does; and creates some appalling outcomes that make your flesh crawl. After an initial (and highly entertaining) dance/movement sequence that previews the first part of the story, one of the first things we see Steven Croydon’s Luke Rhinehart do is his to throw the dice to determine whether he will rape his mistress. The die is cast; he notes the result (he doesn’t tell the audience); and the next thing you know he’s calmly and coolly admitting to his victim that he’s going to rape her. She doesn’t appear to object. In real life, this would all be unspeakably appalling; in the context of a theatrical presentation, it’s chillingly fascinating.

As the story develops, you realise Rhinehart is up to his neck in it – and he always seeks the solution by rolling the dice. He ruins his marriage, he endangers his son, he destroys relationships and he commits a helluva lot of crime. Rhinehart’s addiction to the dice becomes his own religious mania, and also shown to be the complete opposite of faith; and I enjoyed the symbolism of Mr Croydon adopting a crucifixion pose lying on the ground. However, I confess I didn’t The Powers That Beunderstand the relevance of the quotes at the beginning of the show from T S Eliot’s Burnt Norton – maybe that’s in Rhinehart’s original.

Mr Croydon’s subtle and rather subversive performance gives you a fascinating insight into Rhinehart’s soul and how black it looks there, sneakily checking the dice in his hand behind his wife’s back, always having the aces up his sleeve; quietly but firmly refusing to give a damn for anyone, including himself. Jack James gives a dynamic performance as his hearty friend and colleague (without a programme I can’t remember the characters’ names, sorry!) and he also transformed brilliantly into his mischievous but very trusting son. Jennifer Wyndham was excellent as the two abused women in Rhinehart’s life – his wife and his mistress – coping admirably with the physicality of the performance whilst being on crutches “in real life” – a great advertisement for The Show Must Go On.

Tangled spines castFast paced, exciting to watch, and compellingly staged in traverse to heighten our involvement; three excellent performances and an intriguing play to keep us enthralled throughout the whole hour. One of the highlights of this year’s Flash Festival.

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