Bob Carlton’s new production of John Godber’s seminal 1985 comedy Up ‘n’ Under is a very clever affair, and deceptively simple. Christine Bradnum’s setting reflects this admirably with a green floor-cloth, four pillars (doubling as changing-room lockers) and projections to indicate the location of each short scene.
Frank leads us into the story, that of members of a not-quite rugby team which has accepted that it’s never going to win matches so might as well support the bar of the pub from which it takes its name instead. Godber uses Frank and – later on – Hazel to act as chorus to this history, complete with mock-Shakespeare invocations and a liberal use of rhyming couplets. It’s a sort of counter-alienation effect which draws us even more closely into the story.
We engage with four team members, all very accurately brought to life by the cast. Mark Stanford is Phil, a teacher not much in love with his profession. Fran (Jared Ashe) is a burther and Steve (Tom Jude) is a car mechanic. Tony (Callum Hughes) is an apprentice miner, a job which we know with hindsight is not going to have much of a future.
The plot is triggered by a rash bet between Arthur (Simon Jessup) and Reg (Jude). Arthur needs to win, but what – or who – will motivate his team? Enter Hazel, a fitness instructor. Karen Fisher-Pollard makes her sympathetic (a broken marriage) as well as feisty. The scenes in the locker-room, the gymnasium and the excellent slow-motion sequence of the game itself all work splendidly.