A Table Tennis Play by Sam Steiner – Underbelly, Edinburgh
An encounter between an apparently confident young couple, sorting out her dead mother’s things, and a socially awkward tennis-playing teenager is the basis of ‘A Table Tennis Play’. It does awkward very well, but a lack of focus undermines the show as a whole. The best moments come when Beth Holmes’ teen Mia’s neediness pushes her encounters with Rosa Robson’s Cath into territory neither of them expect, and a strange relationship threatens to blossom. It is partly to writer Steiner’s credit that the audience never knows what will happen next, lending events an eerie atmosphere.
The moment of Cath’s mother’s death in that very room is both significant and, inevitably, uneventful. After all, why would anything happen?However, the lack of a clear plot line is also a problem. The play generates an aimlessness in its quest for meaning. The world outside the shelter is confused but also confusing, involving too much information about who is doing what, where, of dubious significance. Above all, it is never really clear why the play is set in a bunker, or what tennis – table or otherwise – has to do with anything.