Andy Howells swaps a wet dark evening in Newport for the tranquil setting of Whombledun at the Riverfront Theatre and finds some “Volley Good Fun” in Crimes on Centre Court.
Feargus Woods-Dunlop’s comedy, Crimes on Centre Court, brought the world of murder mystery into the tennis courts at The Riverfront theatre on Thursday evening. Performed by the touring theatre quartet that makes up New Old Friends, the presentation is based on a story from an award-winning podcast and had previously toured to great acclaim in 2021.
Crimes in Centre Court’s sunny, summery tennis court stage setting was a stark contrast to Newport’s somewhat miserable, dark, wet evening outside. Although I was drenched from my walk to the theatre, I was determined that rain shouldn’t stop play as I took my seat. I wasn’t disappointed. The laughter that followed over the next few hours allowed me to escape life’s woes and forget my rather damp state.
Following the mysterious death of Lord Knows, the chair of The Whombledun International Invitational Tennis Tournament, his son, Hugh, calls in Private Investigators Perry & Penny Pink (no they aren’t married) to uncover foul play on the tennis courts. With Perry going undercover as a contender for Whombledun championship, Penny leaves no stone unturned in the tennis club changing rooms. Unfortunately, following a further untimely death in the form of Umpire Owen Owens, the body count begins to increase on the score board.
Fast-paced surreal humour mixed with mirth, murder, mayhem, and a decent slice of tennis come into the mix as our versatile performers Emile J Clarke, Katriona Brown, Ben Thornton and Kirsty Cox make super-fast costume changes from singing hedges to detectives, murderous tennis players and court officials.
There is a lot of visual humour involved. At times I did recognise shades of Monty Python, classic film noir and PG Wodehouse. Perry & Penny’s car journey as they pass the same hedge presenting road signs and locations and the Whombledun tennis match final are among the production’s funniest scenes. The delivery of each comedic moment is beautifully gelled together by the visually expressive and lovable cast, who you just want to see perform together again.
Sadly, Crimes on Centre Court didn’t get the audience numbers it deserved here in Newport, although those in attendance did appear to enjoy it as much as me. It is certainly a must-see for comedy fans and I could even envisage the more visual aspects of the piece appealing to younger audiences too.
Crimes On Centre Court tours the UK until November, so if you get the opportunity – catch this great example of comedy theatre – it’s volley good fun!