Social Media

Feargus Woods Dunlop - Crimes on Centre Court Interview

Crimes on Centre Court is based on a story from the award-winning podcast Comedy Whodunnits for your ears? (#2 in iTunes fiction chart) and toured to great acclaim in 2022.Expect mirth, murder and mayhem (with a side of tennis) in this deucey treat.
When Lord Knows, the chair of The Whombledun International Invitational Tennis Tournament, dies his son, Hugh, is suspicious. The police won’t take the case, so Hugh calls in private investigators Perry & Penny Pink, to get to the bottom of things. What follows has all the hallmarks of New Old Friends’ brand of hilarity, as a cast of four performers play countless characters with quick-fire changes and quicker wits, in a story that will rally your spirits and leave you wanting a second serve-ing of the volley of gags and visual delights.

Crimes on Centre Court is written by Feargus Woods Dunlop with the tour visiting Southampton, Greenwich, Didcot, Bishop Stortford, Portsmouth, Wakefield, Middlesborough, Dumfries, Bury St Edmunds, Newport, Malvern, Northampton, Oxford, Ipswich, Andover, Coventry, Lichfield, Eastbourne, Peterborough, Tewkesbury, Corby, Buxton and York.

Photo of the 2022 cast. Photo by Pamela Raith

I caught up with Feargus to discuss the piece further.

What inspired the piece?
It started life as a lockdown driven NEED to tell stories and create comedy. I adapted one of our Christmas shows into a novel which we then recorded and released as daily audio advent calendar in Christmas 2020. It proved very popular so we did a spring series, and we were on a woodland walk (in our allowed outside time) trying to think of a setting for our summer series when Heather floated the idea of a murder mystery at a tennis club. It allowed us to bring in some sports-movie tropes and cliches to play with, and continued the saga of Perry & Penny’s gentle flirtation. Then, when theatres were re-opening we were very flattered to be approached by Theatre Royal Bath who thought it would be an excellent fit for their summer season and we set about adapting an audio formatted story into theatre which was a huge challenge but great fun.

What first attracted you to the production?
It is always the ‘world’ of a play/story that draws us in. The idea of taking our cerebral (and inept) detective, Perry Pink, and having him and Penny embroiled in a murder mystery which sees Perry entering into a fictional world-class tennis tournament was a lot of fun. When it came to adapting the podcast into a play it was again the sporting element that was the ‘hook’. How do we use the tools and magic of theatre to recreate that thrill of sport? It was so much fun to look at all the different ways we could present a tennis match on stage during R&D, lots made it into the show, lots didn’t but made us laugh a lot in the room trying to figure it out!

What can you tell me about your characters?
I think it’s fair to say they are mostly archetypes, when you have four performers playing so many different characters it is helpful to the audience if they have strong traits to latch on to for differentiation. So we have the wordy detective, the super-bright detective, the clueless heir, the hyper-organised trustee, a cantankerous umpire, argumentative American star player, his flirtatious wife, a driven (and unintelligible) Swedish star player, a plucky Coward-esque British player, a stern Serbian coach and his ambitious charge, and a young boy (played only by a hat). Oh and four hedge-people who think they’re in a musical. Just your standard stuff really. What do you mean Agatha Christie didn’t have singing hedges?

What research did you have to do while developing the piece/your characters?
This is the seventh stage play in the ‘Crimes…’ series (their thematically rather than narratively linked, it’s not like joining a box-set halfway through don’t worry) so we’re pretty well versed in the world of murder-mystery by now. We read a lot of both Agatha Christie and Anthony Horowitz for fun still who are both masters of the genre. For this show in particular it was useful to look at the history of tennis and how Wimbledon evolved, although our tournament is set at the fictional Whombledun Tennis Club. Character development is a slippery thing to define. It feels so pretentious to say that they sort of develop themselves but it is true. Once I’ve found the ‘voice’ of the character the dialogue flows quite easily and it is through that I make discoveries about who these people are (often quite surprising to me). This is also a remount (we toured the show last year) and returning to the script with a slightly altered cast we’ve found different character dynamics and beats. I thought it was a very shallow, pure piece of entertainment, it turns out there are hidden depths to some of it. But it’s still very silly with plenty of gags, puns and of course those singing hedges.

Photo of the 2022 cast. Photo by Pamela Raith

What keeps you inspired as an artist?
Audiences. Laughter. Being part of an audience for someone else’s great show (normally where there is laughter) and thinking “Oh yes, this/that is what we want to do.” Specifically the work of Emma Rice, the writing of James Graham, the everything of Tim Minchin and then the legacies of Victoria Wood, Eric & Ernie (& Eddie Braben), Ronnie Barker & Ronnie Corbett, Abbott & Costello. OK I’m just listing legends now but you can probably get the sense of what inspires. Entertainers who know they are entertainers are proud to be entertainers and deliver. Billy Connolly!

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show? 
A lovely warm feeling in their stomachs, and slightly sore sides from laughing. Hopefully they spend a bit of time discussing the intricacies of the murder case (it really does all add up and there are lots of clues & red-herrings scattered throughout) but realistically they are going to be chatting about the big theatrical set-pieces, the songs, the tennis and I would love to think they are swapping their favourite gags/bits and trying to remember enough of them to tell someone else tomorrow.

Could you describe Crimes On Centre Court in 3 words?
No.That’s a cop-out. Um… Theatrical. Funny. And I’m going to say Surprising.

Crimes on Centre Court tours opening at MAST Mayflower Studios in Southampton on 7th September, and has tour stops including Greenwich, Didcot, Bishop Stortford, Portsmouth, Wakefield, Middlesborough, Dumfries, Bury St Edmunds, Newport, Malvern, Northampton, Oxford, Ipswich, Andover, Coventry, Lichfield, Eastbourne, Peterborough, Tewkesbury, Corby, Buxton and York. Visit for tickets and more details. 

Photo of the 2022 cast. Photo by Pamela Raith

Post a Comment


Theme by STS