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Cash Cow review at Hampstead Theatre, London – ‘fails to score points’

Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Livingstone in Cash Cow at Hampstead Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Day

With Wimbledon round the corner, this play about the parents of a tennis prodigy is well timed but ultimately proves more of a double fault than an ace.

Oli Forsyth’s two-hander centres on Ade (Jonathan Livingstone) and Nina (Phoebe Pryce), a working-class couple who spy a path to riches when their daughter shows an aptitude with a racket.

The scenes jump back and forth between the past and present, when they’re trying to persuade their now-retired daughter to let them back into her life after an estrangement of three years. Having controlled her career with a ruthlessness bordering on megalomania, their major concern is attempting to claw back some of the money they feel they invested in her success.

Although Forsyth makes some salient observations about children becoming warped by ambitious parents, very little about his story is remotely surprising. In fact it runs like a checklist of cliches, and at times feels like watching a long and dull rally that pocks back and forth without any real drama.

Livingstone and Pryce do their best to bring dynamism to the central pair, but neither really ring true. And the way the daughter is reduced to a few words feels like a missed opportunity – the most interesting character is not on stage.

Katie Pesskin’s floodlit traverse staging effectively conjures the feel of a tennis court, it’s just a shame the match never really gets going.

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Drama about pushy tennis parents struggles to score points