The House Never Wins – Electric Dreams Online Festival

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Creator: Kill The Cat

Playing poker with the environment? That’s exactly what you’ll be doing in the highly participative The House Never Wins. However, you’ll be having so much fun playing cards with your fellow contestants that the accompanying story about the demise of the earth may come as an irritant. Perhaps that is the point?

Rather than poker, it’s actually blackjack you’re playing, although this version has its own idiosyncratic rules. Be careful if you are under 25; the stacks are against you in the same way that climate change will affect you more than the older generations. But let’s ignore the imminent collapse of the world, and play cards instead.

This may sound if the show, playing as part of the Electric Dreams Online Festival, is gloomy and worthy, but, in fact, it’s great fun, with our dealer in perfect control of proceedings. As dealer Madeleine Allardice has to contend with a few technical issues – to be honest no one could really make out the numbers on their playing cards – but these glitches are all smoothly incorporated into the narrative that the House (the casino) is collapsing.

Allardice is a consummate host, always in command but generous, even when she takes away your hard earned chips. And with such a complicated scoring system Kill The Cat’s other member, Dylan Frankland, must be working very hard in the background, along with another helper sending messages to your phone through WhatsApp. There are so many of these texts that you might ignore the few that are important, but they can all be read while you’re waiting for your turn to stick or twist.

As an online show, it works very well, and everyone will feel involved, and people’s competitiveness will surprise you, spurred on, no doubt, by the £10 cash prize given to the winner. At times the environmental messages are a little heavy-handed, but as the House fights hard to support itself these messages make more sense. And the end comes as a bittersweet shock.

Kill The Cat has embraced all kinds of technology in this live show, proving that immersive theatre has a future on digital platforms. With the added jeopardy of busting or being beaten by the dealer, The House Never Wins is an exciting 80 minutes. You might win, however, but at what cost to the earth?

Runs until 15 August 2020

Electric Dreams Online Festival Website

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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