Winner’s Curse Reviews – Park Theatre

A reviews round-up for Winner’s Curse at the Park Theatre in London.

The cast includes radio and TV personality Clive Anderson, award-winning actor Barrie Rutter, TV and stage star Nichola McAuliffe (The English, Living, Surgical Spirit), acclaimed actor Michael Maloney (All Creatures Great and Small), and Greg Lockett (The Mousetrap), Winnie Arhin (Big Girl Words), and Arthur Conti (Crazy For You).

Billed as a humorous but high stakes interactive play about international peace negotiations, the show is written by former ambassador and Middle East peace negotiator Daniel Taub with writer and producer on Mock The Week and The Duck House, Dan Patterson.

Directed by Jez Bond, Winner’s Curse sees two countries locked in battle over a strip of land, when a fragile ceasefire provides a chance for peace. Over the negotiating table, cynical diplomats, idealistic peacemakers and meddling mediators try to navigate a perilous path to agreement as the threat of continued conflict looms ever larger.

Winner’s Curse plays at the Park Theatre until 11 March 2023.

More reviews to follow.

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Winner's Curse reviews

The Times

"Clive Anderson’s charm can’t save this strange show"

"Well, its heart is in the right place, and Clive Anderson certainly makes a genial master of ceremonies. Oh, and we also got to hear Stevie Wonder’s vintage cover version of We Can Work It Out during the interval. Otherwise, unfortunately, Daniel Taub and Dan Patterson’s exploration of the art of international negotiation sags in all directions."

"Arthur Conti (grandson of the venerable Tom Conti) is a winning presence as Leitski’s befuddled younger self, always one step behind the pace as his boss tries to outwit his opposite number, General Gromski (Barrie Rutter is full of martial bluster). Nichola McAuliffe, meanwhile, steals scenes as the dyspeptic owner of the down-at-heel hotel where the two sides sit down for talks. The ashes of her late husband, left in an urn on a table, provide a gentle running joke."

"The problem with this hypothetical, alas, is that nothing remotely weighty or dramatic is at stake. Moreover, with a real war rumbling away in Ukraine, this may not be the ideal time to chortle at pantomime eastern Europeans."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Guardian

"Clive Anderson’s warmth can’t revive this dodo"

"This interactive play by a former diplomat about working in negotiation feels like Debating for Dummies. Anderson’s off-script ad-libs are the sparkiest intervention"

"Written by the former diplomat Daniel Taub, who has negotiated peace treaties in the Middle East, in partnership with Dan Patterson, it should have the sense of something thunderous. But, crammed into a form that feels undeveloped and dry, the drama is unsalvageable. Instead, we’re left with a play that moves, jarringly, back and forth."

"Clive Anderson is a chummy and warm-hearted ringmaster."

"It’s a dragging few hours that leave you feeling blank. This could have been a worthwhile investigation into the secrets of how peace is decided. Right now, it’s a drooping, stale, attempt at an uncovering."

Anya Ryan, The Guardian
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The Stage

"Funny but unfocused"

"Overstretched comedy portraying the messy process of international diplomacy"

"Though insightful and frequently funny, Taub and Patterson’s script is unfocused and ploddingly paced. Never settling on a tone, the show wobbles uncertainly between thoughtful political satire and daft, knockabout comedy, with the characters spending more time chasing contrived punchlines than pursuing consistent goals of their own."

"Clive Anderson gives a hesitant performance as former Karvistani negotiator Hugo Leitski, providing the show with an awkward framing device"

"Michael Maloney holds the show together as experienced negotiator and elder statesman Korsakov. Patiently guiding the peace process, he keeps himself at an emotional distance, all dispassionate observations and frosty witticisms. Still, Maloney eloquently conveys a sense of the intense pressure and deeply personal stakes involved."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Telegraph

"Can Clive Anderson heal the Middle East? Just maybe"

"This curious new play about the political and personal ramifications of negotiating peace, starring Clive Anderson, is a lesson in empathy"

"It’s the chemistry between Conti and Maloney that really glues this play together, and Nichola McAuliffe as Vaslika Krenskaya is impressive too – her malapropisms and visual gags prompting applause from the audience. The downside is that Winnie Arhin’s Rozhina Flintok seemed a touch bombastic and Greg Lockett’s American mediator Tyler appeared a little stereotypical. But these felt like functions of the script rather than a reflection on their performances.

"Winner’s Curse could have been trite and preachy. Rather, it is a lesson in empathy. “It’s not what’s on the table, it’s who’s at the table.”

Dzifa Benson, The Telegraph
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"Clive Anderson stars in this gripping and refreshingly original interactive show about international peace negotiations"

"In his acting debut, Anderson parlays his practiced chat-show host charm into some interactive bits with the audience – fun if not entirely necessary ways to get us thinking about some of the points raised by the play (that said, where else would you get to thumb wrestle with the person next to you?). But while his quippy bluster is fun, Maloney’s Korsakov is the heavy-lifter. Exquisitely droll, he sharpens Taub and Patterson’s funny dialogue into something bone-dry, while grounding his character (and the play) in a genuine conviction."

"Sometimes the play digresses too much, particularly in the first half, and could do with a little sharpening up. But it’s directed with economy and comic assuredness by Bond – who shows a keen eye for some excellent sight gags – and feels refreshingly original. It’s funny, thought-provoking and well worth negotiating a ticket."

Tom Wicker, TimeOut
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📷 Main photo: Winner's Curse at the Park Theatre. Photo by Alex Brenner

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