What are the chances of two local theatre companies staging a play built around the game Dungeons and Dragons around the same time? 

Pretty unlikely I’d say but that is exactly what has happened with the Company of Ten’s She Kills Monsters coming to an end just as Breakaway’s Wildest Dreams is getting into its stride. 

The plays come at the board game from a different direction and yet in a strange sort of way, the Breakaway production at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans is just as sinister as the Company of Ten’s. 

Written by Alan Ayckbourn, it appears at first to be light and frothy as four disparate people meet weekly to play Dungeons and Dragons. 

But as the characters develop and a cuckoo in the nest appears in the young and glamorous Marcie, everyone’s world begins to change. 

Breakaway have created a terrific three-in-one stage at the theatre so we soon learn that one of the gamesters Warren Wrigley is a tech nerd while another, the butch Rick Toller, lives like a slob in a basement. 

Their hosts for the gaming evenings are Stanley and Hazel Inchbridge for whom the game is an extreme form of escapism from their lives. 

But there are plenty of dark corners in the play – not least a question mark over the relationship of Hazel to her brother Austen and the violence shown by Larry Banks, Nazim Uddin, as he tries to entice his wife Marcie back home. 

The production is directed by Lesley Cowland who ensures her cast squeeze every bit of poignancy from the play. 

And she does indeed have the benefits of a very good cast, particularly Elaine Hartless as Hazel whose role requires her to regress alarmingly.

Living as she does with Stanley, Malcolm Coakley, and Austen, Jeff Best, it is hardly surprising her world falls apart. 

Joseph Smyth as Warren and Clare Waller as Rick come into their own as the play progresses while Zara Radford is so suited to the role of the open-hearted and exuberant Marcie that it is easy to see why she is the catalyst in all their lives. 

By the end of the play it is clear that even the illusion of Dungeons and Dragons is not enough to save the quartet from real life. 

This is one of the best Breakaway productions I have seen and the nomadic company appears to be very comfortable at the Maltings Theatre. 

There are three further performances of Wildest Dreams, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, February 8-10.

Tickets can be obtained at ovo.org.uk.