‘Gamble’ Is A Shame-Smashing Delight Of Hilarity, Raw Emotion And An Important Marker Of Change: Review

Image credit: Andrew Moore

“Gambling is in the palm of your hand. All day. All night. Every second. Right. Now.”

Gamble peels back the shiny film of glamour that disguises the reality of the big wins and captivating jackpots. The show sparkles with funky costumes, sequins and smoke with one core message to take away: gambling is never a victimless game of chance, no matter how glamorous it may initially seem.

The cosy Northern Stage, Newcastle is privy to the hilarious life of a girl, her milestones and the sombre realisation that her partner (referred to as Hairy Man) is a gambling addict. The cast don banknote suits succeeded by a wardrobe of colour, flare and dramatics—a true satirical explosion.

Created to make space for honest discussion without the stigma, Gamble is co-produced and written by Hannah Walker and Rosa Postlethwait. Joining them on-stage is Faye Alvi, a BSL performer who not only ensures accessibility but was an abundance of light and life.

Walker and Postlethwait’s dry humour and comedic presence vitalises the script with hilarity and personality. On arrival you are handed a useful leaflet detailing relevant helpline numbers, followed by Walker’s utterly endearing presence as she offered drinks and conversed with audience members prior to showtime.

The production is based upon Walker’s own experience of being in a relationship with a gambling addict. The comedian portrays this with hilarious relatability and personal vulnerability. The new performance has garnered great success, evident in a £50,000 donation gifted by an audience member to the NHS Northern Gambling Service on a previous date.

Music, dance routines and crude jokes—the scenes are joyous and warm with an unpolished and low-budget feel that creates an atmosphere of intimacy and raw emotion. The modest stage is decorated with minimal furniture, smoke machines and captivating colourful lights.

Following the 60 minute first-half was a meaningful discussion with Dr Matthew Walker Gaskel, Clinical Lead and Consultant Psychologist for the NHS Northern Gambling Service. Gaskel touched on gambling-related suicides and the prevalence of online betting and games, especially amongst young males. He provided exceptional insight into the psychology of addiction and advocacy for change.

This lead to eye-opening revelations regarding the power and inconceivable wealth of gambling companies. It is a shame-denouncing conversation with members of the audience able to voice their own concerns and questions. Walker ends the show with an invitation to a “cake and coffee” morning, where the audience can reconvene at a later date to continue the discussion in an informal, relaxed setting.

This interactive segment creates food for thought, tackling what Walker has previously described as the “taboo around gambling” and the “shame” that prevents individuals from reaching out. Gamble unveils the unassuming path towards dependency, usually only acknowledged when one feels as though they are unequivocally drowning in loss and addiction—often when they feel it is already too late.

In summary, the show is a true exploration of the oxymoronic nature of alluring bonuses, bright colours, stimulating music and unparalleled fortune, contrasted with a gentle fine print of “please gamble responsibly”. It is an expertly crafted insight into the realities of the industry.

Gamble will tour until March 28 2024.

Words by Anna Farrer

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