The laughing-stock of Castleford’s Amateur Rugby League Seven-a-Side are The Wheatsheaf Arms, a team of four yet to win a game, it must be down to the team overcompensating for their lack of 3 more players by going to the pub. It is up to coach Arthur to get this team in the best shape to take on the league champions Cobbler’s Arms, within 5 weeks…
The co-production between The New Wolsey Theatre and fingersmiths’ brings a unique performance of John Godber’s award-winning comedy with a cast of Deaf and hearing actors. With a combination of spoken word and British Sign Language, this staging uses the miscommunications between the two as a form of comedy, and does not shy away from poking some fun at the struggles of being deaf, in particular with one character exclaiming how it is better for girls to text than call.
With enthusiasm bursting off the stage, it is clear the cast are having a ball and whilst the energy from the cast is commendable, at times the show did feel too long. The second half being the stronger of the two as we reach the climax of the daunting match between two very different rugby teams, which is executed brilliantly and is a fitting end to the production.
The most enjoyable and humorous moments come with scenes focussed on movement. The rugby match mentioned being an example of this, alongside a dream monologue being a perfect sequence of the bizarre world of dreaming when trying to sleep on a bag of nerves. A highlight from the first half comes in the form of a Take Me Out style introduction to the four main rugby players, giving each actor a chance to shine.
This inventive, comedic piece of theatre is a good example where two forms of communication share the stage to tell the Rocky-inspired story of the underdog.
Up ‘N’ Under plays at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until March 14th.
Director: Jeni Draper
Cast: Tanya Vital, Adam Bassett, Willie Elliot, Stephen Collins, Wayne Norman, Nadeem Islam, Matty Gurney
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