Federer Vs Murray
Geopolitics, war and tennis
This article is from 2011.
Any illusion that the tennis match of the title will be at the centre of Gerda Stevenson’s production of her own text is quickly dispelled in this transfer from Oran Mor’s admirable Play, Pie & Pint lunchtime theatre strand. Yet the game plays a significant part in creating a metaphor about national identity in times of strife.
We meet a couple under stress, with Flo’s (Stevenson) hospital porter’s wages supporting Jimmy (Dave Anderson) through redundancy as a worker in a toilet seat factory. As the match in question nears, his allegiance to the Swiss athlete baffles and irritates Flo, but underneath this tension there’s a greater one about the disillusion of a nation, the economic vandalism of neo-liberalism and the death of a son in Afghanistan, whose loss is not unconnected to the former crises.
Trendier critics might dub this an old-fashioned play, with its largely naturalistic action taking place in a working class lounge room, and its discourse connecting personal disintegration with political causality. But to condemn the piece in this way would be to entirely miss the point, for this is work that addresses the consequences of forms of western financial terrorism which have far more powerful effects on ordinary life than bombs or hijacked aircraft, and this (naturalistic) ordinariness of its characters’ pain is what brings all the power and earthy humour to the piece.
So, too, the piece’s observation of quotidian detail, from a comical accident involving face painting with saltires and would-be Swiss flags to Jimmy’s fetishistic collection of newspaper articles on geopolitical colonialism add to the effect. Both performers work tirelessly and to great effect with the material, which renders intelligible the vast global forces that effect tiny individuals in a manner more telling than any amount of postmodern ‘play’.
Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 29 Aug, 12.30pm, £13–£14 (£12–£13).