A CARPET, A PONY AND A MONKEY
Bush Theatre, London W12
Opened 17 May, 2002

**** Sharp, amusing yet thoughtful gambling play

Mike Packer may try to cover too many big issues as well as the actual story, but the fizz and spark of the action carry you through.

Baz is trying to conceal the truth of imminent bankruptcy from his offstage wife by a return to his old ways of lying, gambling and touting tickets for the Euro 2000 soccer tournament in Brussels. His young recruit Tosser is a stereotypically racist England fan who also learns unpleasant things from Baz about his ancestry. Baz's ticket source is Alan, a star player but in decline and insecure, whose married girlfriend Kate is not so much a single-minded gold-digger as a designer-label-digger.

Packer tries to cover the entire waterfront of major themes: race and racism, truth and deception, celebrity culture, money culture... all are examined as well as the obvious threads of sport and gambling. He can't even decide when to wrap things up; the actual ending is preceded by another three scenes that feel as if they're natural end points.

But the words and events themselves keep the evening bubbling. (The title comes from gamblers' slang terms for various sums of money.) Philip Jackson one of those faces you know from TV but can't put a name to is excellent as Baz, and Lucy Punch as Kate confirms her natural talent for playing dizzy but secretly conniving types.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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