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Review: GAMBLE, Northern Stage

A shame-dispersing, stigma-squashing delight

Review: GAMBLE, Northern Stage Review: GAMBLE, Northern Stage

I think Gamble is about how gorgeous Hannah Walker is. Because she tells you perhaps thirty times in the show. Nonetheless, if there's anything I am really here for, it's oodles of self-assurance from a badass woman dressed in a suit covered in dollar bills shouting at you about how great wine is.

The "official" marketing spiel - which reveals more important themes than wine - would describe Gamble as a show about gambling addiction. Informed by Walker's own experiences of being the partner of a gambling addict, the multi-media show marries glorious levels of glamour with the humbling testimonies of those who have had issues with gambling.

There are moments of music, vignettes delivered through masterful storytelling and facets of (maybe) every genre of live performance since the beginning of time. The breadth of performance tropes make the hour-long show pass by in a heartbeat. It's a pacy, informative, and hilarious journey through the consequences of gambling; from the warning signs of knowing someone with an addiction, to its desperate plea for society to acknowledge that not only does British culture have prolific issues with gambling (there are between 250 and 650 gambling-related suicides every year), gambling companies don't care and are not sufficiently taking responsibility for the harm caused.

Supporting Walker through her show (about being utterly astonishing) is co-creator Rosa Postlethwaite and BSL-interpreter-come-suit-wearing-fellow-badass, Faye Alvi. The former sits in a corner for most of the performance, having been asked to play on gambling websites for the duration. They manage to weave levity through this storyline, but it throws a harrowing shadow over the whole glittery shebang, as we can always see Rosa on a big screen at the back of the stage. Alvi provides BSL interpretation for every show, along with hordes of pseudo-exasperation as she nimbly mirrors her high-energy performance companion.

The multi-media aspect of the show enables the intervention of real-life; breaking up the escapism generated by our vibrant raconteur with interviews with gambling addicts that are projected on one of two screens. Paul Trickett's digital design fast-tracks you into the colourful and mesmerising world of gambling websites and fruit machines.

The balance of comedy, glamour, and sincerity is one of Gamble's greatest strengths. No matter how hilariously dazzling, care saturates the hour. Dispelling the stigma around gambling and advocating for more spaces for gambling addicts is the underlying statement. To contribute to this, each performance is followed by a post-show discussion with Dr Matthew Gaskell, the Clinical Lead & Consultant Psychologist for The NHS Northern Gambling Service. Walker and her team are also facilitating coffee mornings to encourage conversations about gambling.

Gamble is a shame-dispersing, stigma-squashing delight.

Gamble runs at Northern Stage until 21 May.

Photo Credit: Andrew Moor



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