The Six-Sided Man
Gavin Robertson & Nicholas Collett @ Higher Ground – Main Theatre
9:45pm, Mon 7 Mar 2011
Now, this is an interesting post for me to write.
(Not that the others aren’t, mind you, but… you know what I mean.)
Luke Rhinehart’s The Dice Man is a significant book in my life; I first read it after seeing a throwaway reference to it in my beloved Zzap!64 gaming magazine in my youth. It, quite frankly, titillated and shocked and thrilled and abhorred me; I found it to be illuminating and offensive in equal measure. I’ve always held it dear in my “important books” pile, along with Brave New World, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, The Canterbury Tales, and my T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, and Calvin and Hobbes compendiums.
So when I spied a theatrical production inspired by the book, it was a lock. There was no way I was missing this show.
Gavin Robertson plays The Man, a guy who lives his life by the roll of the dice; if there’s a decision to be made, he’ll allow chance to make it for him (“If God can see a sparrow fall to the ground, surely he can see the dice fall to the table? Therefore by obeying the dice, we obey God. The Dice are God.”) Nicholas Collett’s Psychiatrist is attempting to keep an objective eye on The Man’s practices, but maintains a curious attraction to living by the die; there’s plenty of humour to be found in their banter as they semi-randomly move from one situation to the next, letting the dice dictate their actions. There’s also plenty of theoretical discussion, where the Psychiatrist probes the menacingly-pacing Man, questioning his actions and decisions (or lack thereof), and attempts to reconcile humanity with chance…
But unfortunately for me, the power of the book came from the challenges it made on the people who chose to live by the die; the strength of their convictions when faced with moral bankruptcy. The Six-Sided Man side-steps these quandaries in favour of this more academic discussion about the nature of chance and, as a result, removed the bits I loved the most. And whilst the core tenets of the book remain in this interpretation, that’s not enough to win me over… because I know what I’m missing.
I mentioned this to Robertson when I bumped into him at the Fringe Club one night; he (very politely) accepted my comments, talked of the evolution of the piece, and mentioned that Luke Rhinehart himself (well, that’s his nom de plume, but you know what I mean) himself thinks this is a great adaptation. I’d be hesitant to use that word myself, though, since it strays so far from what I consider core to the book; but it’s undoubtedly a quality theatrical experience, with both Robertson and Collett controlling the mood of the piece remarkably well (even if we do stay in the dark more than the light).
I’ve got a feeling, though, I’d have enjoyed it a whole lot more had I not actually read the book beforehand.