This fantastical and flamboyant interpretation of Pushkin's short story about greed and gambling is stuffed with ideas. Packed with clowning, mime, poetry, post-modern winks, dark comedy and magic realism it is blessed with a bravura lighting scheme and soundtracked with a complex score of sound effects, music and frankly alarming noises.
All these elements are great in their own right. The three performers are impressive, slipping through the different modes of storytelling with ease, delivering the modern, clever, rhyming script with panache. Production values are high for such a small scale show in Arcola Studio Two. It's bursting at the seams with experimentation.
And that's a bit of an issue. All these grand elements somewhat battle against each other, to the detriment of the audience experience. A simple story is bloated by (admirable) ambition and, as a result, lacks the single-mindedness of purpose – the exposition of avarice, or of life as a game – that might knit all the bits together.
75 minutes in Studio 2 felt long, but within that are a good 45 mins of original, exuberant brilliance.
NB. Beware being late to your seat – you might be in for a round of ironic applause.
The Queen of Spades is at Arcola Theatre, Studio 2, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 (a few steps from Dalston Junction) until 12 November at 8pm (matinees 22, 29 October, 5, 12 November, 3pm) Tickets: £15, £11 concessions (a limited amount of £10 tickets are available).