La Ronde @ Bunker Theatre
Cast Includes Alexander Vlahos and Lauren Samuels
Running Time: 95 mins, no interval
The new adaptation of La Ronde being offered by The Bunker in a new adaptation by Max Gill offers the audience an new experience in its version of the theatrical game of tag. It uses a large wheel to determine which of the actors will feature in each scene, with pure chance selecting which of it’s four performers will perform. The notion of chance deciding the casting of a role is not unique, with both the RSC’s version of Doctor Faustus at the Barbican and also Mary Stuart at the Almeida last year notably using it. However, it is not perhaps to the same scale – only two roles were left to chance, with only two possible outcomes. With the use of the wheel, every spin gives a different permutation, meaning there are over 3,000 possibilities.
The effect this has on the play is interesting, as well as the notions of chance it evokes in the actors (and being a visual circle) it also means that scenes can develop multiple interpretations. The idea of a power based relationship plays very differently with 2 men than it does with a gender split and can also call into question the notion of masculinity. The one issue with the spinning of the wheel is the time that it takes to complete – whilst it can provide some tension as to which actor will be performing, after a couple of spins the novelty wears off. It can also lead to the fact that some scenes can feel under-rehearsed or as developed as in a traditional show due to the actors not having previously played the scene together.
The script is a good adaptation, keeping the structure that makes the play so appealing (there are nods to it in many plays and Waterloo Vaults recently saw F***ing Men which was inspired by it as well as Roundelay at Southwark Playhouse.) Transported to present day London and making slight adaptations due to time (such as changing certain characters professions) it combines in its scenes both humour and something slightly darker, and it is at these moments that the play is at its most involving and interesting.
The cast are all especially strong to be able to take on this challenge. Of particular note in the performance in question was Alex Vlahos, especially as a cancer patient (who earlier had played the bus driver that hits that character) showing both charm and humour before giving a beautifully touching performance. Also Lauren Samuels played her roles with such versatility and was a joy to watch, because of the huge differences in the roles she portrayed.
Summary: An interesting take on a classic with an innovative central concept. A strong cast bring it to life engagingly. ****