Melbourne in the Summer. A time for ice-cream, poolside chill-outs, complaining about the weather, and tennis.
For those of you who are tired of Tomic's tantrums and wishing for tennis "like it was in my day", comes a cabaret that is written for people exactly like you.
Newk! (The John Newcombe Story) takes it's audience on a journey through the highs and lows of tennis superstar John Newcombe's career. Now if like me, you were born in the age of graphite tennis racquets, he's a quick rundown of this Aussie legend:
During his peak, he obtained a No.1 world tennis ranking in singles AND doubles.
He scored seven major singles titles and 17 doubles titles.
And he achieved seven Davis Cup titles (the older, better version of it)
So yeah...he's a pretty big deal in Australian sporting history.
There are two highly commendable parts to this one hour-endeavour. Firstly, the structure. The way that Kieran Carrol has developed the story is so wonderfully paced. Flicking between a party scene (the present), re-living historical moments in Newcombe's tennis career (the past) and his unforgettable and countless television advertisement appearances endorsing everything from an alcoholic beverage to Aerogard; the show sustains a consistent engagement by giving the audience just the right amount of scene before the next transition.
Secondly, the star. Damian Callinan (The Merger) embodies the larger-than-life sporting legend in a way that is both authentic and respectable. Newcombe may not have always been the most graceful of humans, but Callinan balances his performance out so beautifully on the scales of intensity and vulnerability. Even though I am very openly not a tennis aficionado, I was still able to connect with this performance strongly.
A simple, yet highly effective setting - a bar littered with various exciting looking bottles of alcohol, a stool and a chair, a racquet and (my favourite prop) a cobra telephone.
Various sound clips from sport commentators and advertisers are scattered throughout the show. Whilst they were appropriate, some of their placement felt slightly off at times or we missed the beginnings of the clips because they faded in so slowly - making the entire segment slightly confusing.
This cabaret is wonderfully constructed, sharply directed and brilliantly performed. You don't need to be a tennis-nut to enjoy it, but if you are, you will absolutely devour this show.