Winner’s Curse by Daniel Taub with Dan Patterson. Park Theatre, 13 Clifton Terrace, London N4 to 11 March 2023. 3***. William Russell.

Ramshackle but frequently hilarious this undeniably relevant play by Daniel Taub about what happens when two countries are trying to negotiate the settlement to a territorial dispute and keep failing to agree is far too long and has more audience participation that is necessary. Taub, writing in the programme, makes a decent case for his play but it has been written with Dan Patterson, the power that be behind all sorts of TV programmes like Whose Life Is It Anyway, Mock the Week and various shows starring Clive Anderson who presumably added the jokes. Some of them are good, some really should have been dropped. Anderson heads the cast as Hugo Leitski, a former diplomat who is delivering a lecture on the art of negotiation to some organisation and then, to illustrate what he has to say, we go back to the younger Leitski, played by Arthur Conti who could by no stretch the imagination grow up to be Clive Anderson delightful though his performance is as a starry eyed idiot supporting the head of the Karvistani delegation negotiating with the Moldonian. The twos and fros of the art of negotiation are played out and very interesting they are but one does tire of the general facetious tone given that we know perfectly well these things are going on all over the world now.

Anderson does not really act but he does what he does well – comperes with style and geniality and his rapport with the audience helps keep this decidedly leaky tub afloat. Taub needed a rather more serious collaborator. Michael Maloney and Barrie Rutter have fun playing the heads of the rival delegations and Nichola McAuliffe chews the scenery, such as it is, with a completely irrelevant role as the landlady of the hotel in which the delegations are meeting. She is a joy to watch but just what her reason for being there remains completely obscure. The funniest performance of all, however, is delivered by Arthur Conti as the young Leitski, known to his boss as Lightweight, who is full of the idealism of youth and thinks more with what is in his pants than in his brain – he does, of course, make a pass at the young woman his opposite number on the Moldonian side. Eventually, of course, in come the Americans to knock heads together.

Somewhere in there is a really fascinating play struggling to get out. Director Jed Bond has set the whole thing whirling on a revolving stage with just a couple of tables, four chairs and the urn containing the landlady’s late husband’s ashes as well as copious amounts of drinks for props and the result is lots of laughs but a lot less enlightenment than there might have been.

Hugo Leitski: Clive Anderson.

Winnie Arhin: Rozhina Flintok.

Young Leitski: Arthur Conti.

Tyler, the American negotiator: Greg Lockett.

Anton Korsakova: Michael Maloney.

Vaslika Krenskaya: Nichola McAuliffe.

General Marek Gromski: Barrie Rutter.

Directir: Jed Bond.

Set & Constume Designer: Isobel Nicolson.

Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenen.

Sound Designer & Composer: Sophie Cotton.

Movement Director: Natasha Harrison.

Production Photograph: Alex Brenner.

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