A sporting diversion ~ theatre notes

Monday, July 09, 2007

A sporting diversion

Some of you might be surprised to hear that Little Alison is a bit of a dilletante sports fan (which is, as it happens, another kind of performance). And last night two gilt-edged events had me punching the remote like a hyperactive three-year old, swinging between the Wimbledon Men's Final and the first stage of Le Tour de France, beamed live from Kent, which put on its most glorious colours for the event (there's le Chateau de Sissinghurst! le Chateau de Leeds! it all looks so different in French! Oh, to be in England, now that summer's there!)

The Tour coverage, courtesy of SBS, was impeccable, and Robbie McEwan's miraculous win - stealing the race from the back of the peleton, after a crash left him 150 riders behind at the 5km mark - was completely thrilling. And the commentators, Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen, let you know it, filling in the drama for inexpert watchers like me so you knew what it all meant when Our Boy exploded from literally nowhere in the final hundred metres and lunged to the finish line like an eagle plummeting to finish off an unwary rabbit. It was a thing of beauty.

But I didn't finish watching the Men's Final, a thrilling five-setter between arch rivals Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal - both players I adore watching - because I couldn't stand the commentary any more. After two hours of listening to John Newcombe wittering on about who he met at the milkbar that morning, and Fred Stolle telling us that Federer (on serve at one set all) was "in deep trouble" and Mark Woodforde chiding Federer for not having a "game plan", I was becoming homicidal.

At one point I switched from the utterly involving coverage of Le Tour to a long shot of the Wimbledon arena, with two white dots in the distance - and silence. Five seconds of silence, which is a long time on television. Three of them, and they had nothing to say about anything.

And when they did bother to open their mouths, it was worse. Their idea of commentary is to tell you what any fool (like me, for instance) can see with their own eyes: but I want to hear things that I don't know. I want to listen to people who are engaged in the event they are witnessing. For all the drama going on on court, the Channel Nine commentary team made it sound like a rather dull game in the junior inter-school league of regional Victoria.

I've often been in the UK for Wimbledon, and so have seen the BBC coverage, which is, I assure you, quite different from what we get here. They've got John McEnroe for a start, who not only has some wit and knows a thing or two about tennis, but can communicate something of the excitement and beauty of the event. I don't think shots of pure adrenalin would save Stolle, Newk and Woody. They're the zombies of the sportsworld.

They killed the game dead. And it reminded me, my dears (yes, there is a connection) of bad theatre reviewing, and how it can make theatre seem like the dreariest place to be in the whole world. And maybe that's the worst thing about it.

1 comment:

Ben Ellis said...

Yes! How good was McEwen's win! Makes up for the 1-1 draw with Oman.