Having recently listened to Angela, I had high expectations for John Byrne‘s Tennis Elbow. Both form part of the eight audio plays being streamed as part of the Sound Stage Season in conjunction with Pitlochry Festival Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Edinburgh and Naked Productions.
Tennis Elbow tells the life story of the fictional Pamela. We meet her at key moments, from her school days all the way to her death. The narrative is presented through what seems to be an eulogy following her death. The speaker (Maureen Beattie) sets the scene for the story that will unfold, describing her as a poet, a painter and a muse. As each milestone moment of her life is told to the murmuring audience, the narrative is then picked up in flashbacks to Pamela (Kirsty Stuart).
Each flashback is framed around Pamela writing a letter. This proves useful in instantly identifying the year, telling us her stage of life and current situation, whether that be explaining her lack of funds, writing from a prison cell, or celebrating her successes. There are moments of hilarity, particularly her days as a student at Oxford University where entire conversations are told in rhyme. There are also incredibly touching moments, as old friends resurface towards the end of her life.
The production values are impeccably high, matching, if not exceeding, the quality of any other audio book or play I’ve experienced. The bustling sounds of the village hall are very evocative, while the howling winds almost had me reaching for a blanket. All the cast are incredibly strong, all believable in their roles, with it alway clear who is speaking – something that is crucial for an audio play.
The play lasts just under ninety minutes, yet it feels like only a top line summary of Pamela’s life. As a result, it is hard to really develop a deeper understanding of the character. Although the soundscapes are immersive, the story interesting, it has to be said that sometimes my mind did wander – perhaps more of a risk with audio plays. There are also quite significant time jumps between the flashbacks, which left me wanting to know what else may have happened to our protagonist. I enjoyed the world created, but it left me wanting to know more about this intriguing character and her life-story. For now, Tennis Elbow only really touches the surface.
Written by: John Byrne
Directed by: Elizabeth Newman
Produced by: Pitlochry Festival Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh production in association with Naked Productions Ltd
Tennis Elbow is playing as part of the Sound Stage season of audio plays and is available until 8 May. Further details and booking information can be found via the below link.