Saturday, August 10, 2013

Beating McEnroe

I was suprised to find myself going to a show called “Beating McEnroe” because trying to beat anyone strikes me as a ridiculous way to waste one’s time.

And sport in general tends to bore me rigid and I simply cannot bear the way our culture promotes it.

I lived in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship. The regime fiercely censored the news, stifled all meaningful political debate, and deliberately employed sport as a distraction from its own criminal activities.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is: it is so blindingly obvious here and now that one of the reasons we are not thinking the necessary things about the state of the world we are in is because so many of us choose instead to obsess about the Premier League.

I think it’s an obscenity.

So a play about a tennis match definitely did not appeal.

I went along and got lost in Summerhall because it was work.

And, to my surprise, I am so very glad I did.

Because Jamie Wood’s show is not about tennis at all.

I think it’s about love. But then, because I am clearing out my house and trying to detach myself from the dear debris of a 33 year love relationship that ended with my partner’s death... I seem to think everything is about love.

The love McEnroe felt for his bitter rival, Bjorn Borg; the love Jamie felt for his big brother. 

The love that Jamie, in spite of all the bullying he suffered, still feels for the world.

I found myself down on stage playing Jamie’s big brother, which I didn’t intend, but Jamie has an amazing safe presence, and an intensely engaging one, which made it OK, somehow; and then later, when Jamie was impersonating the tennis ball being batted back and forth in the Borg McEnroe I found myself being one half of the net, alongside someone being Borg, and someone else being McEnroe, and someone else being the referee and the other half of the net, and someone else making tennis ball sounds with a plumber’s plunger.

And weirdly enough it did make a sound like a tennis ball and the whole thing was sublimely silly and utterly utterly joyful.

I had a very brief and very intense relationship with the woman playing the other end of the tennish net because Jamie, having a giant tennis ball covering his head, couldn’t see what he was doing. And we didn’t want him to trip over our net. So we lifted it ip at first, but then we saw that confused him, and so we made a collective decision to hold it at exactly the right height so he knew it was there and could then safely step over it.

That was characteristic, that moment, of this very beautiful show: because we were all working together by the end to do our best to make the whole thing work.

And that’s what theatre is about, I think, this collective enterprise of the playful imagination.

And then, I so want to think, that’s what life is about too. It shouldn’t be about competition or beating anyone: but co-operation and the whole messy, difficult, but ultimately beautiful business of trying to be in all of this together.

I loved this show too - and I think your response is the closest to my reaction I have read. I thought this was joyous... the pleasure of immediate interaction and involvement - and the undertow I thought about the value of naked competition, and the kind of hurt it deals out. And oh when our decent heroes leave the court in bad grace. Dense.
Thanks Denise. Glad you enjoyed the show and I managed to say something meaningful about it. Enjoyed your comments too.
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