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Grand Slam

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
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Anyone for tennis? Yes please, but not in the theatre. Grand Slam, Lloyd Evans’ misfired, implausible two-hander is scarcely better than Terrence McNally’s knock-kneed Deuce on Broadway last year, in which an old doubles partnership played by Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes chewed the fat at the US Open; but at least the American play exuded a love and knowledge of the game.

Evans seems to think that the knock-out stages at Wimbledon are played on successive days; that a leading player, the British Number One (albeit the World Number 156), would be holed up in a Wimbledon rented house with no friends, no trainer, no family, just a night-club bouncer who’s standing in for her injured bodyguard; and that she would dissipate a lifetime’s dedication within touching distance of a first Grand Slam victory.

The lissom, lovely Rachel Pickup plays Madeleine Rochester, the 29-year-old blonde British loser who has been issued with a wild card chance. But would she come home between games in her court kit? And – in the nasty development of an unseen stalker theme – would she peel off a pair of pink knickers she receives in the post in order to tease the bouncer with another pair on underneath?

It just gets worse as Tamara Harvey’s lame production tries desperately to develop the lack of understanding between the Monaco-based rich kid of the rackets and her Canning Town bruiser Cedric – Cedric? (a suitably simian Sam Spruell) - who gets her hopelessly drunk on the eve of the biggest match of her life, having prompted her to come out with lines like “a shrink who cured his patients would need his head examined” which are both nonsensical and dull. Do they sleep together? Do we care?

In her eighth Wimbledon, Madeleine makes the final against the championship’s Number One seed – and the bouncer intervenes with a touch of assault on an early morning jog. It’s not funny or farcical enough to work in a Ray Cooney sort of way. And Madeleine’s reaction is crass and contrived, which at least matches the rest of the show, which is devoid of clean aces and woefully high on risible double-faults.

For instance: the programme lists the names of ten – count ’em – producers, but not the names of the two characters played by the actors. Sad, really.

- Michael Coveney


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