"Laddish comedy-drama with unexpected bite"
by Owen Kingston for remotegoat on 19/08/15

Maybe it's something that only reviewers will care about, but Mark Kermode's recent rant about Entourage [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfgCZ9lgQ3I] eloquently dissects everything that is wrong with modern laddish culture and it's deification of the trappings of success. It also skewers through the heart any attempt to put that sort of culture on a pedestal for the purposes of entertainment. One could be forgiven, therefore, for approaching a show like 'Up the Ante' with trepidation - a young company with a mostly male cast presenting a show about drinking and gambling could very easily and quickly stray into that sort of territory.

'Up the Ante' is also Misprint Theatre's first production, so with no track record to pre-judge them by, many potential theatre goers may choose to steer clear - if this review does nothing else, it will hopefully convince you to take a chance on this fledgling company and their courageous first production. Presented on a very basic-looking set (it can't be easy starting out in the current financial climate) this company has bet everything on the capabilities of its actors to hold on to the attention of its audience, and hold it they do. By the balls for the most part.

The setting is simple and familiar, almost to the point of cliche. Five friends (or four friends and a nerdy interloper) set up for a night of friendly poker. The banter is coarse, laddish, but for the most part amusing. Many beers, a few hundred quid and a couple of lines of coke later tensions are running high, and one desperate gambler bets everything he has (and something he doesn't) on a single hand of cards.

It could so easily fall into the trap of trying to be a Guy Ritchie film on stage, glamorising the drink/drug/sex culture that the characters themselves so clearly idolise, but this show is cleverer than that - the characters are too truthful. Sure they may want their lives to look like a cross between Ocean's Eleven and The Sting, but little details keep dragging us back into the mundane truth of their reality. Whether it's the washing drying in the corner, or the small details of their day to day routines, the contrast between what these characters want and where they are is ever-present, and often reinforced with humour and pathos. What is presented for us is a smart dissection of *why* modern men pedestalise the laddish lifestyle, and these honest characters give us just enough vulnerability to pierce their laddish exteriors, treating us to the rich and complex humanity that leads one man to utterly destroy another, sacrificing ten years of friendship for a few hundred quid.

Misprint theatre's first production may not be perfect in all its aspects, it could certainly do with a bigger budget, but these are people with something to say, and they say it subtly and very intelligently. If you can see past a few laddish gags, you'll find a muscular text and some powerful and carefully considered performances. I look forward to their next production.

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