There’s no denying that Tabletop Games by Ian Kendall is a thought-provoking and compelling piece of work, but it compels in spite of the obscurity of the content and a sense of being lost in unknown territory.

A dreary seaside cafe stands as a microcosm, a reflection of the wider world, where there are people dissatisfied and frustrated at their lot, there are people sitting on the sidelines, disengaged until forced to pay attention, and those who are responsible for keeping the game going. When a stranger arrives in the cafe, the seemingly feckless Leo goads him until he engages, finally putting down his book, which we learn is Kafka’s metamorphosis, to join Leo at the table football table.

Though all three characters are devoid of empathy, they remain alert and aware of each other, constantly goading one another to elicit a reaction.

Leo (Daniel Wilby) wants Noel (Morgan Rees-Davies) to put his book down, he wants to know his name, but most importantly, he wants him to join the game. The hint of violence to come lies in the knife Leo constantly plays with, but it has no effect on Noel. He will only join the game when he’s ready, and he’ll make Leo work hard for the victory – and power – he wants.

Sexual tension is brought into the equation with Abbie (Deborah McEwan), who enters the cafe, has Leo help her into a white coat – could this be a psychiatric unit not a cafe? – and cleans the glass topped table that is at the heart of their games. Leo wants Abbie, Abbie wants Noel – or does she? What’s crystal clear is that they are all in pursuit of power. Selfishness and ambition are the new religion.

Once Leo is out of the game, it starts again – a different dance with different partners, but the game’s the same. Just when did a game of table football become a game of life or death, with winning the only thing that counts?

Tabletop Games is not narrative drama as we know it – the characters, well defined by the three actors, seem less than three-dimensional the action without meaning, the story without an end, but while there’s no beginning, middle or end, there is a circularity and inevitability as the end finds us back at the beginning, forced to recognise that this just might be what the world is now.

Elliptical and challenging, this is a piece that leaves its audience with more questions than answers, the biggest of them whether ritual, dominance and the pursuit of power have become the guiding principles of modern life.