Review: Dealer’s Choice (Trafalgar Studios)

Originally posted on March 11th 2008 


Last night I went to see Dealer’s Choice at the Trafalgar Studios, which was a treat.

After its initial run at the Menier Chocolate Factory (if you haven’t yet found the Menier, it’s time you did), the show has transferred to the West End for a limited season until the end of March. 

It can be hard for a production to move into a theatre for which it was not originally intended, but the Trafalgar Studios was a perfect host – comfortable for the audience, but small enough for the production to retain its intensity. When we got to the theatre, and found ourselves some way back in the auditorium, I was worried, but I was drawn in from the first minute by a combination of exceptional material and even better acting.

 Dealer’s Choice is written by Patrick Marber. This was the first time I have seen one of his plays, and until now, the only thing of his that I have seen was the film Closer, for which he adapted the screenplay from his own play. Marber fans among you will probably have seen After Miss Julie at the Donmar Warehouse, but I missed that one.

Anyway, back to last night…

Dealer’s Choice is a play about a group of people, seen through the prism of their weekly Sunday night poker game, downstairs in the restaurant that connects them. The first act introduces us to the 5 regular card-players (restaurant owner Stephen, his errant son Carl, and employees Sweeney, Frankie and Mugsy), and their guest for the night – Roger Lloyd Pack’s Ash – a professional gambler.

The second act centres around the game itself, and it’s where the ‘action’ itself starts. For me, it’s when the poker starts that you see the characters and their flaws for what they really are. As in Closer, it is the relationships between characters that fascinated me. The intensity of emotions never ease up – a constant stream of anger, love, disgust, relief, despair and joy.  My over-riding feeling during the second half was dissapointment at the characters’ weakness, Sweeney in particular. Despite his initial efforts to opt out of the week’s game, his inability to stand up to either his friends, or himself, is maddening, but inevitable. As the poker game reaches its conclusion, it’s clear that this weakness pervades the entire group. 

The genuis of the play was matched by the spectacular cast. There were no weak links among the 6-man cast, and I struggle to believe that there has been a better ensemble cast on the West End stage in the last 6 months. It is worth seeing this play for them alone. 

So, to conclude my first review on this blog, I would thoroughly recommend you go to see Dealer’s Choice if you haven’t already. You have another 2 weeks until the show closes, so time is running out.

 If you want to see what the national newspapers said about this show, take a look at the links belowReviews in national newspapers:


1 Response to “Review: Dealer’s Choice (Trafalgar Studios)”

  1. 1 Coloured Lights - the first 100 posts « Coloured Lights Trackback on September 8, 2008 at 4:49 pm

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