Federer Vs Murray
Gerda Stevenson’s play about conflict gets timely revival at 2011 Edinburgh Fringe
This article is from 2011.
‘You don’t often get a chance to do something over again in theatre,’ says Gerda Stevenson, ‘to go back, once you know the text and feel comfortable with it. It’s a great opportunity.’
Stevenson’s play Federer versus Murray originally ran for a week in 2010 at Glasgow’s Oran Mor. This new version has been recast, with Scottish legend taking over from Scottish legend (Dave Anderson takes over from Gerry Mulgrew, Stevenson herself replacing Maureen Beattie), restaged, and its script tweaked. Unfortunately, the issues it tackles are still just as relevant a year on.
Stevenson uses the titular match as a way of framing different kinds of conflict: that between married couple Jimmy and Flo (he’s recently been made redundant and is watching Wimbledon obsessively, she’s exhausted and just off night shift) and that between countries and ideologies. Jimmy and Flo are haunted by the war in Afghanistan, and by one ghost in particular, represented onstage by young saxophonist Chris Hardie.
‘I’ve always worked with music, I can’t imagine being without it,’ Stevenson says. ‘I needed a way of bringing a third character into the play, representing the crisis between the two, and music has such a spiritual quality about it.’
Fittingly, one of the tunes she’s used is ‘The Bonnie Earl of Murray’, about another slain soldier.
‘I was thinking about Scottishness, about nations, about what these songs mean and what Andy Murray means,’ she says. ‘My son is 23 now – the same age as these boys who are still being killed in Afghanistan – and I remember him coming home from school one day. They’d had the army in, doing a recruitment drive with this fantastic live band, and my son himself had been incredibly tempted, until he’d heard the music teacher muttering under his breath, “Pity they didn’t tell you you could die”.’
Federer Vs Murray, Assembly Hall, 623 3030, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 12.30pm, £13–£14 (£12–£13). Previews 4 & 5 Aug, £10.