“love its deadpan humour … the whole 4* performance of edge and ease”
You just know that you’re in expert hands when, to the exact beat of ABBA’s The Name of the Game, the dice are twice shaken and then thrown. Except they’re not, you just believe that you heard the rattle and saw the throw …. and reckoned the fateful consequence. This is artful, practised, theatre.
The Dice Man appeared in 1971 and became a cult classic. The Six-Sided Man is its stage face, written and adapted by Gavin Robertson and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1987. It’s back (by popular demand?) with Robertson himself playing The Patient and Nicholas Collett as The Psychiatrist. If they could, they’d be spokes on a roulette wheel; as it is they circle around each other, betting each other’s life on the throw of the dice, or die, which is an unfortunate pun.
The reason being, you see, is that the dice are liberating, freeing you of restraint and conformity by determining a single course of action that is irreversible. ‘Should I go out of the window four storeys up?’ becomes, on the throw of a 3, ‘I must go out of the window’. And where there is mortal risk there has to be sweet reward: roll a 6 and it’s the other guy who goes head first. The Winner Takes It All.
But that’s to jump the gun (with just the single bullet in the chamber, of course). The Patient comes to the Psychiatrist with his problems. The doctor is brisk. “Show me”, he says and the rest might be such weird stuff as dreams are made on but you’re not too sure. In fact – if that’s not too loaded an entity – there’s nothing quite so substantially awful as dog poo on your shoe on a first date.
The cure is that the predictable need not be endured or suffered Yet the dialogue, alongside the high quality of the mime, voice and movement sequences, is unemotional and wary. No great shakes, you might say, but then you realise that there’s a face off here, with neither character prepared to raise the stakes until he’s as certain as he can be that he has the stronger hand. Knowing Me, Knowing You plays on.
The Dice Man was published under the name of Luke Rhinehart. In August 2012 ‘he’ announced his own death. Some believed it, some didn’t. It was a spoof but it allowed Luke to write his own valediction: ‘If you’re comfortable in the selves you’re rolling along with’, he wrote, ‘then roll on. Most people aren’t.’
You’ll roll with The Six-Sided Man and love its deadpan humour and admire the whole 4* performance of edge and ease but you’ll wonder where it’s going; at which point you’ll feel distinctly uncomfortable. Take A Chance on Me? You bet.
Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 8 August)
Go to The Six-Sided Man at Assembly Roxy.
Visit Edinburgh49’s Assembly Roxy archive.