Skip to main content

REVIEW: Newk! The John Newcombe Story by Kieran Carroll

Damian Callinan stars in Newk!

It’s 2014 and Australian tennis legend John Newcombe is turning 70 and all the greats of the sport are arriving at his place for a barbeque he doesn’t have to cook for once. Old friends and players he’s coached are here to celebrate – and Newk is ready to reminisce over a glass of Chinzano, his body liberally sprayed with Aeroguard.

Comedian and comic actor Damian Callinan has grown Newk’s iconic moustache for the role and he’s perfectly cast as the laid-back champ, whose glory days are long behind him. Callinan is warm, funny and charming in the role.

Playwright Kieran Carroll has done a good job digging deep into Newcombe’s life, tracing his career from high school tennis player to Grand Slam champion. There’s a lot of interesting detail about the Wimbledon boycott of 1973 to the story of how he met his wife to an interview with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show to an advertisement for Newcombe’s How to Play Tennis album from K-Tel.

After a while, the roster of names that Newcombe drops gets a bit tiresome – it feels too much like boxes that Kieran thought needed to be ticked. But there’s still some wonderful drama inherent in a scene where Newk realises he’ll miss his father’s funeral for a tennis match, or the moment he beats his hero Ken Rosewall to win Wimbledon in 1970.

The anchoring device of the 70th birthday party is fun, an excuse to look back and keep things light. The show isn’t linear; Newcombe jumps around his life as a player before settling into his post-tennis career as coach and mentor.

The show seems aimed at people who remember Newcombe’s career; a lot of the audience reaction was recognition of names and places and wins. But there’s a healthy dose of laughs and some cheeky audience interaction by Callinan, who had the old folks in the palm of his hand.

There’s nothing inherently dramatic in the story of Newk – even as he tells us of the stroke he’s suffered, the play never really connects that with the life of drinking that went hand-in-hand with his career. Even the darkest moment, talking of the stages of a party-boy evening, when he turned from John to Jock to Jack, dissipates into laughs after he wakes the next day.

Newk is a light-hearted look back at a champion of Australian sport – and if you get all the references, you’ll have a good time. And if you douse yourself in Aeroguard, you’ll avagoodweekend.

Newk is on at the Butterfly Club until Saturday January 19th.

John Newcombe

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Thing Isn’t Beautiful Because It Lasts: Avengers in the AGE OF ULTRON

The latest film in the Marvel Universe series feels like nothing so much as a season finale. And since Joss Whedon was once the master of creating season finales that were both emotionally satisfying and thematically resonant, it’s good to have him in charge for the second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron.
I’d like to compare it to the epic scope of Buffy’s “The Gift” but it feels more like Angel, if anything. Things change, the world moves on – and the best you can do is keep fighting. And embrace change.
Tony Stark has always been flawed, but by the third film in his own trilogy, he seemed to have found an emotional peace. But with that peace comes the idea that he can use his technology – his faith in machines being his tragic flaw – to create a replacement for the Avengers. He births an army of robots to calm the populace and fight alien foes.
Robert Downey Jnr’s Stark is such a towering figure in the Marvel Universe films – and to make him partly the villain of this new film is a s…

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return, the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago.
It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head.
Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did.
Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it.
Agent Cooper, the third part of this T…

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Garry Starr Conquers Troy

Last year, Garry Starr explored every genre of theatre in order to try to save it. Now that he’s saved theatre, he wants to make sure actors out there know how to be the best skilled actor (or, skactor) they can be. Garry has written a book called “An Actor Pretends” about the history of pretendism.
Chapter by chapter, Garry’s vast knowledge of being a triple threat is explored on stage in front of our very eyes. He explains how to audition for a director when you’re waiting on them in a restaurant. He tells us how to act when we inevitably move to Hollywood and get botox and we can’t move our face. And then there’s his unconventional method for learning lines by osmosis.
Rubber-faced actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith is so damn charismatic that he’ll have you on his side within minutes – and have some of you up on stage as part of Team Garry, if you dare. If you don’t want to participate, don’t sit in the front row like I did; though my moment in the spotlight only consisted of…