Nothing Cobblers about this

Up ’n’ Under, Alnwick Playhouse, Friday, May 7, 7.30pm.

HAVING seen many of Alnwick Theatre Club’s previous performances I was looking forward to another comic routine which would leave me smiling – and I wasn’t disappointed.

First staged in 1984, John Godber’s Up ‘n’ Under follows the story of the consistently rubbish rugby sevens team based at the Wheatsheaf Arms. With an unbroken record of defeat, the team’s finest hour was losing 54-0.

But one man thinks he can change their fortunes.

Cajoled into a courageous bet, Arthur Hoyle, a retired player, undertakes to train the boys – who regularly turn out with a team of just four – to play against the unbeaten Cobblers Arms lads, the best sevens side in the north of England.

But when the lads fail to turn up to the first training session at Walton Sports Field, Arthur meets Hazel Scott who runs a body-building gym and enlists her to help him lead the lads to victory.

The play started with narration from David Paterson – who plays the quirky Frank Rowley – before the bet is made between Arthur (Peter Biggers) and Cobblers’ manager Reg Welsh (Robin Lewsey).

Being the only characters on stage, they have the audience hooked, and with some witty one-liners the laughter was already starting to bubble.

There was true comedy value in seeing the Wheatsheaf’s team for the first time.

Three men down, only one managed to show up with the right gear while another was wearing Jesus sandals which caused the audience to explode with laughter.

And as the story continues, the comedy and laughter continued to flow, especially in the gym scenes.

Julie McIntosh was a brilliant Hazel, putting the lads through their paces and showing them that girls can be as good as and sometimes better than boys.

Peter Biggers was fantastic as Arthur , who played as well as coaching, and proved that he had what it takes to create a winning side.

Gary Brown, who played teacher Phil Hopley, was also one of my favourites.

The slapstick gags he managed to tag in had theatregoers in stitches.

Add to that his Romeo and Juliet parody turned into a rugby poem and he was definitely on to a winner.

Despite them losing by a point to the Cobblers, the Wheatsheaf gave it their all – especially when some of their players turned into the opponents!

The best moment for me though was when the audience turned into the fans cheering and applauding their team, who managed to play a whole game on the Playhouse theatre stage.

The play showed real camaraderie and each and every member of cast should give themselves a huge pat on the back.

Performing a whole play with only seven cast members is a major achievement.

And while there were a few fluffs of the lines, overall the play was superb and showed true talent, wit and spirit.

HELEN MILLICHAMP

Cast: David Paterson, Robin Lewsey, Peter Biggers, Julie McIntosh, Gary Brown, James Matthewson, Andrew Kane.