by John Godber.
Stephen Joseph Theatre Westborough YO11 1JW In rep to 31 August.
7.30pm 16, 17, 19-21, 26-31 Aug.
1.30pm 22 Aug.
2.30pm 17, 31 Aug.
Audio-described 17 Aug 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
then New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG 3-14 September 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 August.
Foul play rather than nice try.
When he writes about things he’s lived through, John Godber has a direect, popular touch that’s enabled him, over more years than many dramatists have stretched an active career, to write plays which have made audiences happy in places most of the theatre cognoscenti don’t even know exist.
Many a small-town theatre, many an arts centre has been somewhere on the road from relived to delighted that the playwright’s Hull Truck, and more recently John Godber Company, has set out on tour with another comic piece that’ll fill the hall.
But there haven’t half been some Godber-awful pieces littering this prolific way. And, unlike his early, artful Up‘n’Unders which rooted their humour in the very real challenge of a keen female coach to the natural male indolence of a low-ranking pub rugger-team , this new piece about women rugby players, has little to recommend it.
No, that’s not true. It has nothing to recommend it. This is a one-act play stretched-out to two hours by a first act of inessential scenes. Anything they contribute could have been sketched in a few lines. Most of the individual anxieties are predictable and self-pitying. A major subject of controversy develops around one woman’s anger that her husband has been sleeping with one of her team-mates. It fizzles out because Godber has nowhere to take that particular cliché for a walk.
It’s cruel the piece is playing alongside Alan Ayckbourn’s new play. Godber’s single dramatic device – having two sisters in the team played by the same performer – is exposed even more starkly in its pointless nature and witless use by being in proximity to Ayckbourn’s theatrical ingenuity.
And while Up-‘n’-Under’s team progressed through their matches as we rooted for the success we knew they couldn’t have, Muddy Cows’ unseen games, results and individual concerns never matter. Characters are off-the-peg, waiting to be filled with individuality.
The cast tries hard to provide this, and Elizabeth Carling nearly makes her ex-pro with a worsening knee-injury interesting, but the play needed, at the least, an independent eye as director. And probably a quiet postponement for rewriting.
Maggie Deakin: Elizabeth Carling.
Donna/Daisy Cooke: Claire Eden.
Fran Wood: Una McNulty.
Amber Matthews: Hayley Tamaddon.
Kim Johnson: Amy Thompson.
Jess Baxter: Abi Titmuss.
Director: John Godber.
Designer: Pip Leckenby.
Lighting: Paul Stear.