Casino Zero by Bridie Squires gets a full house...
It’s pretty much a given that writers draw from what they know. What makes things interesting is how that material is used. Experience of working in a casino could be expected to present many emotions arising from wins, losses, and addiction. Part of the triumph of Casino Zero is that instead of being constrained by naturalism and moralising, its creator and performer Bridie Squires opts to present not just a story about gambling and gamblers but a gleefully dark and restlessly inventive one-woman show that’s as good a portrait of nub-end stage capitalism as you’re likely to find.
How inventive? First, you’ve got the use of audio looping with which Bridie builds up a soundtrack from her words and noises she makes by thumping her chest, spinning a wheel, tumbling chips, etc. Then there’s the ways she uses sound effects to bring a cyborg supervisor to half-life, who alarmingly and correctly sees a younger version of herself in the protagonist. More audio provides another element: adverts for Chum Bars, the matey name of which points to its grim ingredients.
A feat of theatrical bungee-jumping
Offsetting this nightmarish vision are memories of better times with a much-missed grandfather at a point when life challenges were more easily grasped. And that story is woven into the dark now through a plan to win a caravan. Which allows Bridie’s expertly physicalised and voiced characters to shine, as her own character exploits their vulnerabilities and monstrosities to give her the prospect of escape. Her complicity is important and relatable, another example of how the house always wins.
The show’s 70 minutes is a feat of theatrical bungee-jumping, and it’s an indicator of how fluid its flow is that I rarely noticed just how much Bridie does to keep the myriad pieces moving. There were points when the looped sound was too loud to hear her properly over the top, and overall the use of audio could be trimmed to the show’s benefit. But that possible remix is for the show’s next iteration. Right now, Casino Zero marks Bridie Squires out as big talent, the Poundland Kae Tempest we didn’t know we needed.
Casino Zero played at the Nottingham Playhouse on 19 October 2023.
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