The audience, segregated into men and women, are led up to a long, dark attic. I've no idea what bizarre scenes greet Shunt's male spectators but at the ladies' end, there's a dimly-lit chamber fenced off by high netting. Smoky old jazz tunes echo around, punctuated by distant, aggressive grunts and thwacking noises.
Surreally sitting on adjacent loos are two naked young women sporting huge twirly moustaches, Salvador Dali-style. They pass admiring compliments to and fro but with a bitchy spin on them. They wax their legs competitively then a couple of frumpy lineswomen try and fail to imitate them.
Later, you stumble through a mysterious shed to emerge in a black void marked out with wobbly phosphorescent lines, roughly like a tennis court. Ghostly men and women in whites play cruel and bemusing games with each other in the gloaming, battle for dominance on umpires' ladders, and finally thrash madly around in a wilderness of mud.
On paper this sounds like pretentious chaos. And indeed there are some obscure and unpolished patches (including a weak ending). However, The Tennis Show veers skilfully between ludicrous comedy and shocking bleakness.
There are terrifying and deeply disturbing moments: as the lines of the tennis court are suddenly sucked down a small hole in the earth; as a hand grows out of the soil waving a faintly glowing light bulb; and as an unidentified man is battered by his peers in a far-off room while women dance carelessly around him. Fantastic, alarming inventiveness.
Independent on Sunday 26.11.00