Theatre

2000 The Union Chapel, London DER WEISE The Courtyard Theatre, London
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The Independent Culture
"The first gamble is your decision to see the show," reads the poster for 2000. There's a clear hint there of more risks to come. Sadly, it's a hint that the rest of the evening doesn't quite live up to.

The idea behind 2000 is to turn Dostoevsky's The Gambler into a game of chance. At the start of the evening, you are given a jacket to wear, and inducted into the world of Roulettenberg by the hotel manager (immaculately played by Tristan Sharps). Each member of the audience throws a die, determining which route he or she takes through the Chapel's winding corridors.

A variety of things happen along the way: I had my feet washed in a biblical fashion by a quiet man in monk's robes; a friend was commissioned to carry messages between two other performers. But the initial gamble makes no real difference to the show's outcome - you all end up in the main body of the chapel, watching the same performance. And later, when you are invited to have a turn at roulette, you risk nothing and win nothing. The end result is that you don't feel any more sense of involvement in the desperate world of Dostoevsky's novella than you might get from watching it on a more conventional stage - possibly less, since by the end you're rather unsure of precisely what has happened.

But if this venture by Alison Edgar's Shaker Productions doesn't achieve what it sets out to do, it's never less than interesting, and many of the performance's individual elements - set, music, poker-faced cast - are admirable. You may not be moved by it, but it's a quirkily enjoyable affair and not such a gamble as all that.

Meanwhile, the Courtyard Theatre down by King's Cross offers another shake-up of a European classic - Der Weise, based on Gotthold Lessing's last play Nathan the Wise. The plot is pure hokum - with Christian knights falling in love with Jewish maidens, and hopelessly improbable networks of long-lost relations, all set in Jerusalem at the time of the crusades. But at the heart of the production is a message about the need for religious tolerance which has obvious contemporary resonances.

It's a curious fact that,while adaptations of Dostoevsky are two-a-penny in British theatre, Lessing, one of the founding fathers of modern European drama, is hardly ever seen. It's a situation that isn't going to be changed by this production. Some of the cast clearly have difficulty following the syntax of the very stilted, Victorian-sounding translation, and it doesn't help that the action is disrupted by some very drab dance episodes, supposedly involving a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew (though the choreography isn't particularly expressive of any religious convictions). The only possible point to these is to show that we can all dance our own steps and still move in harmony - a moral that Lessing expresses very nicely on his own. On the whole, a bad bet.

n Booking for 2000: 0171-226 1686. Booking for Der Weise: 0171-833 0870. Both plays end Saturday

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