A story of how a beer-swilling amateur pub rugby team prepares for a David and Goliath match comes to life in Up’n’Under, the John Godber play which is the next production at Westacre Theatre.
The team from the Wheatsheaf Arms have a sad claim to fame – an unbroken record of defeat. But then the manager Arthur Hoyle makes an impulsive bet and stakes his house on it, that they can beat the all-conquering Cobblers.
He has only weeks to train his Wheatsheaf team for their head-to-head with the Cobblers who have been the best and most feared squad for a decade; unstoppable force in amateur rugby league, they mean business.
With terrifying tactics, they are indestructible – and they know it. So this match will be an all or nothing battle with pride, ambition and livelihoods at stake.
You can watch the Wheatsheaf players struggle through their suffering and setbacks, but then triumphantly develop into a credible line-up in this Westacre Theatre Company production. The ballad drama celebrates the collective strength and dignity of an impoverished pub team taking on their elite rivals. But can they make the impossible possible by conquering the Cobblers? Will Arthur have that brilliant idea he needs to pull it off?
Director of this production – and lecturer at University Centre Peterborough – David Connor explains: “Up’n’Under is typical of playwright John Godber’s early work.
“It is extremely fast-paced and energetic with lots of physical action and an ideal challenge for this year’s Westacre Theatre bursary students back from their courses of study at universities and colleges around the country.”
In between rehearsals, the cast have been seen unwinding by playing out full scale games in the landscaped grounds of Westacre Theatre! Just how many tries will they score?
Godber’s work is widely performed today and some surveys suggest his plays are number three in the English language after Shakespeare and Ayckbourn. But back in the early 1980s, Godber taught drama and coached the school rugby team at the Comprehensive where he had been a pupil. Having written some episodes of Emmerdale and Brookside, he was appointed artistic director for the almost insolvent Hull Truck Theatre.
Rugby rivalry between Hull and Hull Kingston Rovers was at its peak, so John Godber wrote the first play to put that game on stage.
Put together in just 10 days for the 1984 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the cast were exhausted on opening night and had effectively become the Wheatsheaf team in the play.
But a successful tour brought them the Laurence Olivier Comedy of the Year Award and two years in the West End, then there was a later film starring Neil Morrissey, Tony Slattery, and Griff Rhys Jones.
Teechers and Bouncers were two more comedies in a string of successes that Godber went on to write but it was Up’n’Under that saved Hull Truck financially and made it the world famous theatre company that it is today.
From August 25 to September 3, you have seven opportunities to join the audience at Westacre Theatre for some fast and furious hard knock Northern humour; tickets for the 7.30pm performances are £16 with concessions for under 21s. You can book online at www.westacretheatre.com or through the box office on 01760 755800.