Ravens: Spassky Vs. Fischer, Hampstead Theatre - ★★★★ - Until January 18, 2020


The game of chess has often been used as a metaphor for various aspects of the human condition, but in 1972 the whole world accepted a match between the Russian world champion, Boris Spassky, and American prodigy, Bobby Fischer, as a symbol of success in the Cold War. This was a period when the "bad boy" sports icon was being created with such personalities as John McEnroe and Muhammad Ali capturing the popular imagination. But, perhaps, the baddest boy of all was in the cerebral world of chess. Bobby Fischer set a new standard of eccentric and spoilt behaviour using it as a form of psychological warfare to undermine his opponent, and some would argue to change the game itself. Spassky is presented as a decent, non-political man who wanted to play by the old rules, what is referred to by one of his handlers as the bourgeois value of sportsmanship. He is the moral centre of the play and his world view is simply overwhelmed by Fischer's game changing behaviour. Robert Emms is mesmerising as the erratic, insecure American and he dominates the stage as Fischer does his opponent. Ronan Raftery is excellent and understated as the put-upon Spassky in this multi-layered play. Although it was rather long and the subject matter may seem dry to some, we were enthralled and couldn't help but think how this chess match's new pattern of psychological distraction, outside the rules of the game, has also become the modus operandi of current leadership in the political sphere. The metaphors continue.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆ 

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WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until January 18, 2020
Mon - Sat: 7:30 pm, Tue: 2:30 pm & Sat: 3 pm
Hampstead Theatre
Nearest tube: Swiss Cottage
https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2019/ravens-spassky-vs-fischer/

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