Theatre Review: Do I Win Or Do I Lose? – Gambling With Staging, Or A Patriarch Performed

August 16, 2023

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Do I Win Or Do I Lose? / Directed by Lia Koenig / Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg

 

Roy Horovitz is an Israeli actor and director who has visited South Africa (and the Theatre On The Square) with a couple of different productions over the years. He’s an adept solo performer, combining focus with energy to give his characters an appealing onstage vigor.

His protagonist in Do I Win Or Do I Lose is based on the grandfather of a friend of Horovitz’s. As the actor explains in a short live prologue, his friend’s anecdotes were so compelling that Horovitz implored the man to write a play about his grandfather and then asked for permission to adapt that script. The original piece was about a Scotsman, with language and idioms that played to a Scottish audience. Horovitz keeps his character’s background, but filters out a number of references to make the story more understandable for an Israeli (and South African) audience.

His friend’s grandfather is, at his core, a lovable rogue, a man who loves his football almost as much as he loves wagering on the outcome of matches. His gambler’s tendencies are woven into all areas of his life, making him a not entirely trustworthy presence for his family, though this shortcoming is balanced out everywhere else by humour, warmth and genuine love – as experienced by the narrator, also played by Horovitz, who is the man’s grandson (and so represents Horovitz’s friend, who originally told him the story).

The explanation at the beginning of the show, and the way that it removes the fourth wall before the action begins, rather undermines the ease with which the audience can invest in the storytelling aspect. Staged in this way, it feels almost like a presentation of theatre-making, rather than a play that draws its audience into an interesting new world that can be explored as the story unfolds.

Still, though, there is a great deal of affability in Horovitz’s performance, and his likeable, mischievous protagonist is the sort of person many have met and – for all that person’s faults – felt a great affection for, so it’s likely you’ll leave the theatre with a grin on your face.

 

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