Jamie Wood’s one-man show, Beating McEnroe, is a bewildering yet entertaining hour of childish madness. Through his obsession with Björn Borg and John McEnroe that began when he was a child, Wood takes the audience on a journey where he learns about rivalry, defeat, and what it means to be a man.
Admittedly, this is not a show for everyone, and going into it with a closed mind may prevent people from fully understanding the message Wood tries to convey. The audience play a vital role from the moment they enter the theatre, as throughout the performance, Wood invites people on stage to help him reimagine key events from his childhood that still have a profound effect on his life today.
Among these instances are moments of pure nonsensical genius that are only befitting to a child’s imagination, such as the makeshift tennis court and his amusing attempts at explaining some tennis terminology. The sentimental moments are particularly memorable and thought provoking. The voiceover of Byron, his older brother, remembering what tennis meant to them, not just as children but as brothers, is simple and yet beautifully sincere.
Unfortunately, however, these moments are occasionally lost amongst the madness that is Wood running around the stage, throwing tennis balls at the audience. The show begins to lose its edge towards the end, as the random dance intervals between each chapter begin to feel a bit too long and repetitive, and Wood is left on stage wearing very little. The final request for the audience to take all their clothes off with him feels out of place, considering the profound journey of self-discovery we are meant to have witnessed.
Aside from its awkward and abrupt ending, Beating McEnroe is both a hilarious and a touching piece of theatre. Amidst all the laughs and tennis balls flying around are real bits of sentiment and a man made vulnerable by his uncertainty as a child. The only problem is that the madness of it all may leave some audience members wondering: “What on earth did I just watch?”