Review: Games by Henry Naylor at Gilded Balloon Teviot

From the multi-award winning UK playwright Henry Naylor, Games is a testament to female determination. Challenging the implications of labels, it explores the dangers they have in society in a way that proves still relevant today.

Based on true events, Games tells the story of Helene Mayer and Gretel Bergmann, two defiant female athletes struggling with identity and anti-semitism during the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. In a piece that is both moving and entertaining, Tessie Orange-Turner as Gretel Bergmann and Avital Lvova as Helene Mayer, pass narrative dialogue to one another with great ease, telling the story of a world renowned fencer and promising athlete who must overcome extreme persecution to gain visibility on the world’s stage.

Beautifully written, Naylor weaves thought provoking text together with well placed laughs as he exposes the audience to the varying vulnerability of his two strong female leads in great depth.

Lvova’s depiction of Helene Mayer is convincingly stoic and her unfaltering determination is conveyed through consistently commanding stage presence. Narrating her story matter of factly, she gives little emotion away until the final climactic moments where her sheer vulnerability is raw and genuinely moving.

Turner’s portrayal of Gretil oozes a naive, childlike innocence that is both refreshing and heartbreaking to watch, particularly in her depiction of a once-hopeful girl realising the inherent flaws of her childhood hero. Bringing the character to life, Turner gives energy to the production wearing her emotions on her sleeve with fierce integrity.

Breathtaking and powerful, Henry Naylor’s Games is sharp, funny and poignant- a must see.

Games by Henry Naylor, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 6-27 Aug (not 15), 4.30pm

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