Writer/Director: Feargus Woods Dunlop
Crimes on Centre Court is a silly comedy whodunnit complete with tennis puns and singing hedges, that has all the ingredients for an hilarious farce. There are just four actors playing all of the roles, over 20 in total, so many quick changes are needed both in terms of costume and accent – veering from the ridiculously posh British accent to Dutch, Welsh, American and more.
The action takes place on the courts of Whombledun Tennis Club’s International Invitation Tennis Tournament where the Chairman, 92-year-old Lord Knows is killed off seemingly by a bowl of strawberries and cream laced with brandy (and who knows what else) just before the tournament begins. This leaves his preppy, toffee nosed son Hugh Knows in charge of the whole thing, or so he thinks, having swept in from Monte Carlo for the funeral.
Unfortunately for him, his father has left the tournament to his favourite tennis player Fred Digby, whom he called the son he never had, despite of course clearly having a son already. As the tournament gets underway there are more murders, Detectives Penny and Perry Pink (no relation and definitely not husband and wife) are called in to see if they can unravel the mystery, and the singing hedges (yes, you read that right) provide harmonic updates on what has and is about to happen throughout.
New Old Friends have set out to produce a play that sits in a similar category as firm favourites The Play That Goes Wrong by Mischief Theatre and Michael Frayn’s Noises Off – both farce masterclasses on stage and while Crimes on Centre Court does attempt it well, it is not quite as successful as these other examples of the genre.
There are many puns and some physical comedy too, both of which provoked groans and titters from the audience, but the action was played so far back on the stage that one liners and punchlines were sometimes lost. The physical comedy was good, at times excellent but much of it was not big enough or ridiculous enough to warrant more than a smile.
There were moments of hilarity, including the action replay of a tennis shot to see if it was out or not complete with slow motion and zoom capabilities, and the scenes between the Pinks in their car were very entertaining. The show as a whole, however, felt long (running at around 2hrs 10 minutes) and was complex enough due to a lot of ‘he said, she said’ moments and characters telling each other about the action rather than seeing it, that by the end I’m not sure the audience knew or cared what had actually happened and who had in fact done it.
But to a certain extent that matters not, as this is essentially a light-hearted, pleasant attempt at farce and the detective genre with twisty plots and there is a real sense from the actors that they are working their socks off to entertain you. Worth a look, but not necessarily an ace.
Reviewed on 10th November 2023.