Winner’s Curse, Park Theatre, London, 2023
Photo: Alex Brenner
  • Theatre, Immersive
  • Recommended


‘Winner’s Curse’ review

4 out of 5 stars

Clive Anderson stars in this gripping and refreshingly original interactive show about international peace negotiations


Time Out says

In Daniel Taub’s ‘Winner’s Curse’, the key to peace negotiations is almost everything but the obvious aim. Drawing on his experience as a member of the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Taub – also a former Israeli Ambassador to the UK – argues that it’s the ‘who’, not the ‘what’ that’s critical. It’s about who’s at the table.

Together, Taub and comedy writer Dan Patterson (‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’, ‘Mock The Week’, as well as Olivier Award-nominated farce ‘The Duck House’) have turned this into a comedy-drama about peace negotiations between fictional rival Eastern European states Moldonia and Karvistan, directed by the Park Theatre’s artistic director Jez Bond.

The play is framed by Clive Anderson as Hugo Leitski, former Karvistani negotiator, reminiscing to us as part of a lecture about his role in these negotiations as a bookish but practically inexperienced young man. The younger Lietski is winningly played by Arthur Conti with rapidly deflating self-confidence, good comic timing and swamped in a suit that makes him look like the post-Tom Hanks kid at the end of the film ‘Big’.

Leitski is assigned by his politically powerful uncle to accompany Karvistani’s head negotiator, Michael Maloney’s Anton Korsakov, to the negotiations, much to the latter’s annoyance. The pair end up butting heads while enjoying the dubious charms of the Black Lagoon Lodge – the site of the Moldonian peace talks – while also negotiating with their no-nonsense landlady Vaslika Krenskaya (a reliably scene-stealing Nicholas McAuliffe, stomping around the stage with a thousand-yard stare and a gruffly Geordie accent).

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.

There’s good support from a bullish Barrie Rutter as General Marek Gromski, Moldonia’s head negotiator but also propaganda puppet for the military, and Winnie Arhin, whose ‘assistant’ role to Gromski isn’t all that it seems. As the broader comedy of the first act darkens after the interval, their characters are key to the play’s overarching theme: you can’t negotiate effectively unless you know all the facts.

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.       


£22.50-£44.50. Runs 2hr 10min
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