Littered with inauspicious absurdist humour and uncomfortable audience participation, Jamie Wood‘s Beating McEnroe is like being in an interactive Wimbledon-based video game, where the opponents are the lowest ranked players in the tennis profession.
Beginning as a humming Buddhist, strangely supplemented with incongruous headwear, before quickly morphing into a dancing fairy and systematically throwing tennis balls to everyone that enters, it doesn’t take long for the audience to realise they are as important to the evolution of the production as Wood himself. This sets the tone for the rest of the play; uncontrollable, uninspiring moments of theatrical madness.
There is an element of pathos in the diminutive monologues about his youth, and his unremitting love for Björn Borg clearly has some sentiment, but these rare moments of enjoyment are soon drowned out by the throwing of an egg, or the dressing up of an audience member.
The only interesting part of the show is the derivation of certain esoteric tennis terms, but again, instead of interweaving these into any sort of narrative, they are fluttered across the stage with no real intention or meaning.
The overdramatic dénouement – which involves at least six people re-enacting a point from the 1980 Wimbledon final – is simply a summation of events that seem to grow more farcical with every scene.
Ending with a dance, and a plea for the audience to join him in getting naked – where he predictably has something hidden in his underpants – this production is more of a double fault than an ace.