Sexual deuces Were Flowing.
who plays or watches tennis regularly know it is a game almost constipated
with social etiquette – a fact which makes it a perfect match for
performance company Shunt. The group serves up a show of satirical surrealism,
toying with the sexual fetishism which seethes beneath the surface of the
suburban sport beloved of Sue Barker.
However, this is no kind of sober BBC commentary, but rather an obsessive, faintly nefarious take on the squeaky clan ceremonies of tennis, Stuffy, blazered umpires run the show, officious linesmen cry “fault” as the audience step into the performing arena and waif like bullied ball boys and girls cower in the corner, while streakers emphasise the sexual nature of the pompous charade.
Transforming the eerie attic space of the Museum of the Unknown, Shunt’s performance triggers many different associations, not least as it’s member revel in the territorial absurdity of ritualised competition. But above all, the show is powered by the mutant libidinal forces which drive a game already replete with sexual and phallic imagery- rackets, ball etc. But much of the game’s implicit sexuality, like Shunt’s suggestive performance, take place in the mind. Thwarted and unrecognised crypto-sexual drives are therefore twisted into ritual of domination and submission, played out between breathless participants and voyeuristic spectators.
All this, together with the initial dividing of the audience into separate rooms for men and women, generates a childlike buzz of expectation. There are unsettling moments, such as the terrorising of the urchin ball boy, striking tableaux such as the sudden disappearance of the line of the indoor court and intervals of audience involvement.
However, much of the show’s theatrical potency is derived from its novelty, while its rough edges suggest it is not yet entirely match fit. But having served out a good first set, this saucy performance should still mature into a five-set thriller to get the sexual deuces flowing.
Evening Standard 27.11.00