Review: Up’n’Under, Rowntree Players, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, March 6&7, kick-off at 7.30pm. (From York Press)
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Review: Up’n’Under, Rowntree Players, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, March 6&7, kick-off at 7.30pm.
INJURIES are part and parcel of blood-and-thunder sports, forcing unforeseen changes in the team line-up.
In keeping with that truism, Rowntree Players lost a player only three days before opening night, when a swollen foot ruled Michael Powell out of his debut appearance in the hurly-burly of a Rugby League sevens match.
In stepped director Howard Ella as a late substitute, taking on the role of school teacher Phil Hopley, a dashing blade of a union player in his Loughborough University days, and now roughing it in the Wheatsheaf Arms pub team in this 25th anniversary production of John Godber’s hardy comedy.
Always short on players and long on a line of heavy defeats, the unsuspecting lads of the Wheatsheaf – prickly Phil, big butcher Frank (Mark McDonald), even bigger brickie Tony (Oliver Tattersfield) and wannabe ladies’ man and car mechanic Steve (Leon Thompson) – are selected by dodgy businessmen Reg Welsh (Graham Smith) as witless lambs to the slaughter.
Former Wakefield Trinity pro turned decorator Arthur Hoyle (Barry Benson) has let his loose mouth talk him into a bet that he can train any team Reg nominates to beat his mean, moody and magnificent seven, the Cobblers Arms from Castleford. And so, under-manned will meet underhand, the deadbeats versus the unbeatable.
Who can lick the Wheatsheaf layabouts into shape? Step forward no-nonsense gym boss Hazel Scott (Claire Horsley), still smarting after divorce from local celebrity husband Dave and happy to take out her frustration on any slackers. This tale of blood, sweat and beers is the most physical of all Godber’s comedies, with its training routines and climactic, bruising match, where a rugby strip with one team’s colours on the front and the other’s on the back enables the cast to play both teams. Twenty five years on, that theatrical coup de grace still amazes and Frank and Hazel’s mock Shakespearean soliloquies still amuse in a Rocky spoof where the dialogue has lost its edge but the epic drama still packs a punch in Rowntree Players’ hands.
Box office: 01904 623568.