I confess to having not so much a blind spot as a completely glazed over spot when it comes to sport and anything sport related. The title, Federer Versus Murray, either passed me by or just registered as something that would not interest me. Thankfully, others have seen the value of this strong and poignant wee play and made it runner–up in the Scottish Arts Club and Edinburgh Guide 2011 Fringe Award. Through this I learned that there was one last day of the run so although at the coo’s tail, have had the pleasure of seeing it.
The synopsis given by the company could really not be bettered so here it is: “…a tragic-comedy about war on several levels: the private war between a couple in a long-term marriage, the public war of rivalry within sport, and political war between nations – in this case, the current war in Afghanistan. The theme of History weaves in and out of this triad – history of individuals, of nations, and their inextricable links.”
Jimmy and Flo are coming to terms with the loss of their son in Afghanistan. Tensions rise as Jimmy’s being at home all day watching TV tennis following his redundancy drives his working wife to crazy frustration. The play was originally successfully performed at Glasgow’s Òran Mór as part of the legendary A Play, A Pie and A Pint season.
This is a tightly written and well observed piece whose dialogue shows the dynamics in a long term marriage where the love seems to have got forgotten as each is locked in their own polarized world, full of crossed wires. We see a kindly man and a raging wife hopelessly locked together, not exactly on Mars and Venus, just in a kind of hell where the Scots expression ‘bombed oot’, used by Jimmy, is especially apt.
Their world views are in opposition too as they argue with raw emotion over the reasons for their son’s being in Afghanistan and his terrible death. Jimmy sees ‘hope as an opiate’ and his methods of trying to move on are at odds with Flo’s coping mechanism of nursing her grief. They can’t even support the same country at Wimbledon with Jimmy idolizing Roger Federer and Flo patriotically willing Andy Murray to win.
You can feel the desolation of the flickering TV screen with Jimmy lying about in his jammies as he deals with reality of the joyless despair and war zone his marriage has become. It was quite difficult to be on the side of Flo, as though her pain was evident her grief driven anger hurled at her patient man, a gentleman of the stripe mentioned throughout the play, seemed unjust.
Even when they seem to be at a point of reaching a peaceful path together, it seemed to be on her terms. Yet behind that she was indulging her man on his hero worship tour to snowy Switzerland where she could speak of the excruciating pain of her son’s birth when she was ‘so far towards hell she got near to heaven’ and how his head his bloody head was the first and last thing she saw of him.
The play is poignantly punctuated by the lovely rounded tones of the saxophone and Chris Hardie appearing in combats and playing it in a ghostly light as he appeared from behind the audience was extraordinarily moving. With Scottish stage veterans Gerda Stevenson and Dave Anderson being on fine form even after a long Fringe run, it is game, set and match to the team for this accomplishment.