UP ‘N’ UNDER
by John Godber.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 15 October 2011.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 8, 13 Oct 2.30pm
Audio-described/BSL Signed 8 Oct 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 October.
Match well worth replaying, and played to super league standard.
When John Godber first set the hopeless Wheatsheaf pub-rugby team against the giant Cobblers Arms in 1984 he was playing on home ground, in Castleford, West Yorkshire, and knew the area and its people. They’re caught here in comic dignity.
Which makes the play still worth seeing. The mock-Shakespearean lines are a familiar enough idea, while references to the Rocky films either pass-by or seem quaint. Even Godber’s witty touches, like the climactic match where actors play for both teams by turning round and revealing an alternative strip (not a bad word for Bob Carlton’s Hornchurch revival, given the body parts variously revealed in the changing-room) is the kind of thing that’s been absorbed into the visual language of the modern stage.
What makes this pleasantly amusing if infrequently hilarious production work is the humanity it shows in its ordinary lives. Each individual shows the capacity to stir from their rut and rise over accumulated miseries – bereavement, separation, disappointment.
The staging helps. The close-up contact that gave Godber’s original production such wit in small-scale venues on Hull Truck’s tour, was built on having actors so close-up it became personal, the acting skill alone involving the crowd.
A larger stage and auditorium creates a distance used to full effect by Carlton. Moments that might have seemed emotionally false strike true here. The distance lends enchantment – and reality. The mass of these men are living lives of quiet desperation; perhaps the one woman too, though she’s more enterprising.
Simon Jessop’s finely-downbeat Arthur, chewing or worrying until the final moment, starts things by making an unintended bet, in the kind of competitive talk that arises without the speakers really noticing, and which plays as absolutely credible. Tom Jude’s mocking Reg is forebear of the threatening images the Wheatsheafers will face – hulking Cobblers, red-shirted backs to us, or looming as black silhouettes against a red-washed screen.
Played with a seriousness that evokes humour out of a way of life, it’s especially strong when optimism refuses to die, or a good idea to lie down while the possibility of a replay, or sequel, is around.
Frank: Jared Ashe.
Steve/Reg: Tom Jude.
Arthur: Simon Jessop.
Hazel: Karen Fisher-Pollard.
Phil: Mark Stanford.
Tony: Callum Hughes.
Director: Bob Carlton.
Designer: Christine Bradnum.
Lighting: Paul Stone.
Costume: Penny Latter.