Federer Versus Murray

Gerda Stevenson's exceptional piece is blighted by its final scene

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 07 Aug 2011
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Jimmy Stewart has just been laid off. He now spends his days on the couch watching Wimbledon and pompously potificating about the world. Meanwhile his wife Flo is struggling to come to terms with his now-constant presence. It quickly becomes clear that not all is well in this marriage, but we don't yet fully appreciate just how bad life for the Stewarts has become.

Federer Versus Murray is a brilliantly powerful, evocative, humane and funny exploration of loss, grief and isolation within the confines of domestic family life. It's a beautiful study of both human fragility and strength, told through the lives two very unextraordinary people and featuring great performances from leads Gerda Stevenson (also the playwright) and Dave Anderson.

Indeed, it's almost perfect. But the only criticism to be made of Federer Versus Murray is quite a significant one: it is exactly one scene too long. As the play builds to a crescendo in its penultimate scene, the audience is barraged by a tidal wave of pain, suffering, anger and remorse moments before it closes with a brief glimpse of reconciliation.

The rawness of emotion is so strong as to evoke tears, though the power of this moment is somewhat dulled by the final scene—more epilogue than denouement—set not in the Stewart's flat, as is the rest of the play, but at the foot of the Matterhorn mountain in the Swiss Alps and at odds with the general tenor of the production. The affecting atmosphere is quickly, and disappointingly, dissipated. It's a minor blight on an otherwise exceptional piece, but a blight nonetheless.