(Photography by Richard Davenport)
The Rhum and Clay Theatre Company’s 64 Squares, an adaption of Stefan Zweig’s The Royal Game by at The New Diorama Theatre, is a beautiful and intelligent play about identity and memory. 64 Squares highlights what we choose to remember and forget in the story of our lives and how the events of our past can inform who we are in the present.
Life is like a game of chess, a game in which every move has a consequence; and thus this game becomes a metaphor for the life of a man, B, who has lost his memory as a result of trauma. Set on board a luxurious cruise line in the late 1930s, 64 Squares tells the story of the world’s greatest chess champion coming up against B. B’s identity is fractured, and so this one-man show is played by four people: three actors and one musician.
Scenes are repeated and the same scenes are often retold from a different perspective from each of the three actors – in a desire to remember the certain events of his life from his own different perspectives. In a series of flash backs and replays we see how different moves and movements in B’s life have led him to this endgame – a check mate or a defeat? It depends on which perspective of B’s mind you are convinced by.
The set is simple and minimalistic. However Rhum and Clay have used every possible creative stroke, from shadow puppetry to acrobatics to unravel B’s life choices and to transport you on to the cruise ship as on observer of this intense match. Fred Mclaren’s jazz score creates the perfect moody atmosphere and backdrop. When there are moments of high energy or frozen moments of silent Fred rolls the beats ever so appropriately.
It is often the first 5 minutes of a play that grab you and the ending is often an after thought that many producers don’t give enough attention too. 64 Squares is different, it really grabs you at the end, as this is where B’s life and life choices all come together and make sense. You leave the theatre wanting to converse the takeaways of life, identity and memory.
“I have nothing left of my past, then, but what I carry in my head….For I regard memory not as a phenomenon preserving one thing and losing another merely by chance, but as a power that deliberately places events in order or wisely omits them”. Stefan Zweig
64 Squares last show was on Saturday 21st November at The New Diorama Theatre in London. After a sell-out run at The Edinburgh Fringe, I would not be surprised if 64 Squares makes a return. In the mean time look out for Rhum and Clays’ crime thriller: “Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow” showing at The New Diorama Theatre from 9th – 27th February.