Cash Cow (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs)

In the tiny theatre downstairs at Hampstead, it’s new balls please as Cash Cow tells the story of an ordinary couple who realise their young daughter (tellingly, never named) is a tennis prodigy.

Phoebe Pryce as Nina
Phoebe Pryce as Nina

Jonathan Livingstone and Phoebe Pryce navigate a script that utilises a short scene structure to move backward and forward in time: their child has cut them off for years and we slowly see how their pushing for her success, while disregarding her mental state and own wishes, engineered the break between them.

On a stage which resembles a tennis court in size and shape, with the use of a light strip around the performance area and piano music and light changes to separate the scenes, both Livingstone and Pryce do well with tonal changes that require them to move through a range of emotions, as well as playing their shadowed, monosyllabic daughter – her only words are yes, no and OK.

Phoebe Pryce as Nina
Phoebe Pryce as Nina

Cash Cow is a deftly performed piece which benefits greatly from the intimacy of a small space, and a running time of just 90 minutes. We feel we know this couple but slowly they reveal themselves as they really are, however much they protest that “it isn’t for the money, we just want her”.

In this Wimbledon fortnight, with teenagers playing at the top professional level, you do wonder about the lives of the children who put parties, boyfriends and even menstrual cycles on hold for the good of the game and their careers.

Jonathan Livingstone as Ade and Phoebe Pryce as Nina
Jonathan Livingstone as Ade and Phoebe Pryce as Nina

Oli Forsyth has written a literate play here which throws up all kinds of questions about the rights of minors and fame by proxy. Katie Pesskin directs, Anna Reid designed the set and Ed Lewis the evocative sound design.

Cash Cow continues until the 20 July at Hampstead Downstairs.

Photo credits Robert Day.

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