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Testmatch review – smart satire hits casual racism for six
Cricket Culture Sport

Testmatch review – smart satire hits casual racism for six

Stepping up to bat in this show of two very different innings are the enduring legacies of vitriolic nationalism and the violence of colonialism. But for the most part, in this story of sport and superiority, we’re just watching people muck about and gossip. Kate Attwell’s journey through cricket wittily interrogates wilful ignorance in the face of corruption and brutality. With the added delight of interval ballgames.

The players are soggy as they run on to the stage, seeking shelter from the rain that stops play at the Women’s Cricket World Cup match between England and India. Ego runs wild in the break room as they wait out the weather, patience flailing and tensions rising. There’s a muscular beauty to Diane Page’s direction as the group of six prowl and goad each other on Cat Fuller’s cracked circular stage. The England team are hot-headed, the India team much cooler, the competitors’ warring considerations of history and global politics entangled with their complaints about the rain and the celebrity athletes they’re dating.

Tanya Katyal is riveting as the eternally positive player for India, as is Bea Svistunenko as the rigid England captain tempted towards foul play. Throughout, Attwell’s taut writing coils their emotions tightly, pinpointing their urgent, full-bodied need to win.

Time for tea … the second act.View image in fullscreen

That tension releases in the second act as we lose a couple hundred years and the action leans into flaming satire. As famine rages outside, our now bewigged, blathering men of the East India Company write down the rules of cricket, because God forbid anyone else should claim credit. “What people?” they ask pointedly, when the question is raised of the starving citizens beyond their gate, returning to the more pressing matter of the overarm bowl. Through these overinflated men, we see threads of the modern-day female players: the misplaced English authority, the casual racism, the selfishness that allows individuals to see rules as being for other people.

Unravelling slightly at its end, the final scenes could benefit from a revival of the rigour of the first act, as the overheated humour occasionally feels like we’ve slipped into an episode of W1A. But Attwell’s message is clear: throughout history, the English have rarely played fair. Through the lens of the gentleman’s game, Testmatch is a smart, messy, angry reckoning with history and the idea of good sportsmanship.

Source: theguardian.com