Treating international negotiations as a game

“If you never miss a train you may be spending too much time standing on platforms.”

Anton Korsakov

Arthur Conti as the Young Leitski and Michael Maloney as Anton Korsakov. (Photo: Alex Brenner)

It sounds interesting.  A play about international negotiations reenacting one with audience participation.  The format to be Clive Anderson as Hugo Leitski, a renowned international peacemaker, receiving an award and giving a lecture about his life’s work at the end of his career.   Unfortunately with the Older Leitski narrating and watching from the sidelines his interruptions served to suspend any fragment of disbelief we clung onto.  Part of the show is intended to be comic in tone but this comedy sat uncomfortably with the serious nature of the negotiations.  At the end of this rambling play I was neither vastly amused nor better informed about the intricacies of diplomacy.  

We start with the Younger Hugh Leitski (Arthur Conti) being taken on by the Head of the Karvistani negotiation team, Anton Korsakov (Michael Maloney) for work experience.  They will arrange to meet the Moldonian negotiators General Marek Gromski (Barrie Rutter) and his assistant Rozhina Flintok (Winnie Arhin).  They are to negotiate a deal in the Black Lagoon Lodge owned by Vaslika Krenskaya (Nichola McAuliffe).  It is Madame Krenskaya who produces much of the comedy as she flirts with the General and is outrageous.  Her husband’s ashes are kept in an urn which everyone tries to use as an ashtray and the urn rattles with the 15 bullets used to kill him.  McAuliffe’s accent comprises several countries and English regional counties in a kaleidoscope of regionality making me wonder if she was doubling or trebling up, but maybe that too was a part of the comedy.  

Cast (Photo: Alex Brenner)

The concept Winner’s Curse is based on the thought that one might have been able to bid less in an auction to secure the item, than what one has actually paid.  It is the lingering doubt that one has not been as savvy as one might be.  In auctions I experienced the Loser’s Curse – in order not to overspend, decide what something is worth to you and stop.  The item would sell immediately at a tiny bit more, something you would have happily paid but you have lost.  The thing is, if you had carried on bidding, so might the other person.   But auctions are a specific kind of negotiation rather different from international deals.  

We hear some of the requirements of the Moldonians and the Karvastanis in the negotiations over land and watch the interaction of the negotiators.   Michael Maloney and Barrie Rutter are both experienced thespians and put the meat on their rather underwritten characters.  Young Leitski and Miss Flintok have a clumsy attempt at a romance which could have seriously skewed any outcomes in the negotiations.  The playwright Daniel Taub was Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2010s, and should be vastly experienced at difficult negotiations but his experience sadly hasn’t made for great drama on stage.  A professional American mediator arrives Tyler (Greg Lockett) who seemed to me to break all the rules of mediation but perhaps that was the point of his intervention?  

Too many in the audience on opening night were looking confused at the impact of this unfocussed play.

Nichola McAuliffe as Vaslika Krenskaya (Photo: Alex Brenner)

Production Notes

Winner’s Curse
Written by Daniel Taub with Dan Patterson

Directed by Jez Bond



Clive Anderson

Winnie Arhin

Arthur Conti

Greg Lockett

Michael Maloney

Nicholas McAuliffe

Barrie Rutter


Director: Jez Bond

Designer: Isobel Nicolson

Movement: Natasha Harrison

Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenen

Sound Designer: Tabitha Pigott


Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with an interval

Booking to 11th March 2023


The Park Theatre

Park 200

Clifton Terrace
Finsbury Park

London N4 3JP


Tube: Finsbury Park

Phone020 7870 6876

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Park Theatre 

on 13th February 2023