Review by Kiran Gupta
Sporting musicals are few and far between. Perhaps it is because of the incompatibility of the subject matter, perhaps it is because the fanbases of both disciplines rarely cross over. Whatever, the reason I was particularly excited to see Defeating Roger Federer and see what the writing and directing team of Jane Eakin and Wendy Lewis had put together.
The space at Low 302 bar was cozy but lovely. Hidden in the heart of Crown Street, the little showcase space in the bar was the perfect venue to watch cabaret-style theatre. It was quaint, gorgeous and very much contributed to the mood of the show.
Defeating Roger Federer follows a husband and a wife who will do anything to get to the top of their sports. The premise is interesting, exploring just how far one will go to succeed and just how fruitful that may be. I did think that there could have been more development of the idea as the storyline (apart from the interesting premise) seemed a little predictable and derivative. Perhaps that is a necessary evil when composing a work such as a theatre production but a little more drama and suspense would have been appreciated.
The costuming was often quite amusing and the acting highlighted the absurdist nature of the musical. Andy Leonard (Mirek) and Dianne Weller (Bree) did a great job of conveying the characters and developing the story to the best of their abilities. Leonard’s singing especially was strong and well-projected throughout, helping to convey all of the story. Weller’s singing was less assured however her acting was strong and consistent throughout.
Perhaps the most obvious issue throughout the show was a general lack of cohesion. It sometimes felt as if there was no clear structure and the show ran from scene to scene without a sense of clear direction. Of course, this is to some degree a result of the space and the small cast but I did feel this could have been considered slightly more in the production process.
The tennis references were much appreciated to a tennis fan! I particularly appreciated the attempts to keep the dialogue current (i.e. references to Nick Kyrgios and the pandemic). However, this did create a slight disconnect with some of the songs (a number of the players mentioned are now retired and Bernard Tomic is certainly no longer top 100!) While this isn’t a problem in itself, it probably means that either the whole show needs to be updated or it should remain set as a piece in 2018-2019. It’s a minor point but one that any tennis fan will quickly pick up.
Overall, this was an interesting show with a very promising concept. I think that the show perhaps needs a little more work in development before its next run however, it was still a very enjoyable watch, with credit deserved for everyone involved!