The English language production of Sports Play is a timely one, calculated to coincide with the eve of the Olympics. Written by the Austrian playwright, novelist and Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek the show premiered at the Nuffield Theatre at Lancaster University this week. Or at least a third of it did.
The original work took more than seven hours to perform; this one lasted 110 minutes. A play full of long, repetitive monologues about war, sport, violence, television, media pressure and discipline, the cast coped admirably with the long passages; yet it was also hard work for the audience to keep pace as the subject matter changed and altered within the space of a sentence. It is not an easy night. But if you like seeing challenging theatre with masses of text and little plot this might be for you.
Jelinek gives few stage directions for the piece so each production is different. In Vienna it had 142 performers, this one directed by Vanda Butkovic has just seven. The one real highlight of the show is the staging, created by Simon Donger. His set was just one big mound of white fluff, 160 kilos of it to be precise, from which the actors emerged, hid and performed in. It is a simple but effective device.
Performed by Just a Must company the show is now touring and during its London run will feature sports results from the Olympics.