Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Up 'N' Under

John Godber
Oldham Coliseum
Oldham Coliseum
06 October 2017 to 21 October 2017

The acid test for a good Up ‘N’ Under is the final match and does it deliver the killer touchdown….?

John Godber, back in the 80s and 90s was the third most performed playwright in the UK, after Ayckbourn and Shakespeare.

Neither Godber nor Ayckbourn are anywhere near as ubiquitous these days but this 1984 romp should always be good for a laugh, and so it proves here, certainly standing out from the scrum of many of his – definitely lower scoring – later works.

It follows the, eventually inspiring, story of an inept team from the Wheatsheaf Arms in a Yorkshire amateur rugby league sevens competition.

Ex-pro Arthur takes on the Herculean task of coaching these no-hopers in a bid to beat the Cobblers Arms, the Yorkshire champions, the latter coached by a bitter rival who was instrumental in ending Arthur’s playing career  Somewhat foolishly, Arthur bets his life savings on winning.

It’s commendably short, absolutely no time wasting  – we were out by 21.15 – sharp, and pretty much gripping throughout, Godber’s script standing the test of time very well indeed.

The cast of six are a well-drilled ensemble and director Chris Lawson pushes things along at an adaptable pace that has time to take in the various (very lightly sketched) backgrounds of the principal players.

There are more amusing lines in the script than I thought there were and I’d forgotten about the theatrical device that enables two teams to play the final match - clever – here with Beverley Norris-Edmunds’ choreography wittily spot-on.

So, yes, it does deliver, an evening of undemanding entertainment that is roundly recommended.

Reviewer: Alan Hulme


Comment by Paul Genty

Chris Lawson is proving a strong addition to the Coliseum team with this, another lively addition to the theatre’s season.

Like his previous sporting production Jumpers for Goalposts, this is consistently pacy, funny and energetic - even though the cast, a legacy from the previous production Oh What A Lovely War, couldn’t look less like a bunch of rugby players.

Early Godber is the best Godber, as most fans will agree, and this, his first big hit, remains an entertaining take on the “Rocky” story of zero to hero, played out among amateur rugby teams in a lowly Yorkshire league.

As Alan suggests, the play is short and funny, its down-to-earth humour perfect for its subject and the double-shirt device a smart way to choreography that climactic rugby match.

Like most of Godber’s works the play shows a little evidence of judicial updating (I suspect the playwright shudders every time he looks again at one of his early works, if only in realisation of how long ago he wrote it, and how dated it seems), but the essence of the adventure remains. Everything about this show seems spot-on - even if the cast could stand to be a few inches taller and a few pounds of muscle bigger!