Bingo really does seem to have hit a cultural hotspot at the moment, what with the ‘Bingo Confidential’ Hollywood film and the interactive bingo experience at the theatre with ‘Everybody loves a Winner’. It seems that even if the Chancellor of the Exchequer can’t see the beauty in the simplicity of the bingo game that at least screenplay writers and playwright’s can! Neil Bartlett himself had reportedly been attempting to get the audience to question their own preconceived ideas of bingo games and bingo players and to participate, enjoy and be part of the bingo experience.
As you will remember from our previous articles on the Bingo Confidential film we are really backing everything bingo, and although we haven’t seen Everybody loves a Winner, we are sure that it will be a major success for the producers. However it would appear that possibly the socially constructed image of the traditional UK bingo hall and UK bingo players could be in need of a bit of an update, certainly if early reviews of Neil Bartlett’s bingo singing and dancing extravaganza at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester are anything to go by anyway. one of the reviews of the bingo play in the Financial Times has a comment from a member of the audience - who incidentally was reportedly as being a bingo operator - who remarked that the ‘aesthetic of the show was a few years out of date’. The Independent reviewer comments ‘Here in the soulless surroundings of the Rex, the mainly female, mainly middle-aged clientele wonder "if hope has a number" and, if so, will it have their name on it today? The social interaction between these lonely, feisty and often poignant characters is observed, in the course of one day as stupefyingly dull as any other, by a bourgeois, affluent theatre audience.’ Not the way the average bingo player would view either the bingo halls or their fellow players.
Play bingo first before you judge
The literary version of the bingo games hall experience was always going to be a difficult thing to create in a theatre, although from reports the show, part of the Manchester International Festival has done very well in its attempt. The writer was hoping, if reports are true, to challenge each person’s own belief in whether they actually do love a winner, or if they feel maybe a little bit of disappointment at another’s good fortune.
Clearly going to the theatre to see the play may encourage some people who have never been to play bingo to put their first tentative step inside a bingo hall. However we do think that the cost of the ticket to view the bingo play might be better off firstly being spent on bingo tickets at the local bingo hall to play bingo. We believe this for two reasons; one to help keep the bingo hall there but also secondly to enjoy the experience firsthand to experience the real joy and excitement that bingo games bring, bingo players, bingo hall and of course bingo hall staff can bring. Then as an audience member a theatregoer can truly judge whether Everybody loves a Winner is a good reflection of the bingo hall experience or not.