Games and After Liverpool by James Saunders (4 stars)

Games and After Liverpool by James Saunders

Timely revival of two abstract one-act plays by James Saunders

Timothy Leary's suggestion that most conversations can be boiled down to the repeated question 'I'm still here, are you still there?' is exemplified by James Saunders' After Liverpool, a one-act play performed as part of a double-bill here by the four-person blind elephant collective.

Inspired by Saunders' experiences in Liverpool under controversial Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, the play features two couples, one heterosexual, one gay, involved in a series of discussions that slide painfully into passive-aggressive argument. In 2017's gender-fluid times, it's appropriate that the actors decide which roles to play based on the toss of a coin before the play begins. Performers Ross McCormack, Sammy Moore, John Prichard and Jessica Revell do a good job in making each twist of Saunders' wordplay hit home; the posters advertising this show features a recommendation by Tom Stoppard for Saunders' work, and it's easy to see the connection between the pair.

Also written by Saunders in 1970, Games is an even more challenging piece of work. Starting off as a lift from the transcripts of the infamous Lt Calley court martial, during which the US soldier defended his execution of babies during the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Games goes on to widen out the scope to show the actors discussing how best to play the roles, and eventually they address the audience directly and engage in a discussion about the themes involved.

Like After Liverpool, Games is a very 1970s-flavoured experimental piece, but one equally worthy of exhumation; blind elephant are a youthful collective who are writing and producing this as their third production, and their youthful zest goes a long way to making Saunders' work feel vibrant and alive. There are rough edges, but they're transferred directly from the original text; this double bill is an agreeable blast from the past from an unjustly neglected writer.

Underbelly Med Quad, until 28 Aug (not 15), 11.55am, £9–£10, (£8–£9).

Games and After Liverpool by James Saunders

  • 4 stars

blind elephant 'We never answer each other's questions. Have you noticed? We just add more questions. It's not communication, it's ping-pong.' Communication is hard. Obeying orders is easy. Two back-to-back plays that ask when are we actually communicating with each other and when are we just talking? By genre-defying…

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