Teessiders, according to Gordon Steel in this revival of his 2001 play Studs (and, indeed, in his subsequent A Pair of Beauties seen at Hull Truck in the spring), are linguistically challenged. They waste no time searching for le mot juste because more often than not le mot just happens to begin with 'f' and end with either 'k' or 'king.' Add to this Steel's obsession with incessant scatological references, fat girls with eating disorders and regular attempts, occasionally successful, at coupling, and you have a product likely to give your Aunt Mabel the vapours.
Hull Truck's punters, who appear to be a decade or so younger than your average British theatre audience, greeted it
all initially with a cackle but slowly became inured to what is essentially just the carapace of a soft-centred, sentimental story.
On the one hand, Ronnie (Robert Hudson) is battling to keep his football team together and win the County Cup (in homage to his father who founded the club but never won the cup), whilst the council is determined to close the
club and re-develop its pitch; and on the other, Mac (Chris Connel) and Tommo (Joe Caffrey), two of his 'star' players, attempt to hang on to their women - "thick" (by her own admission) Kylie (Danielle Williams) and dominatrix Mandy (Laura Lonsdale) respectively. When the blokes decide on a lads' weekend to the fleshpots of Scarborough, claiming it to be a golfing weekend in Whitby, the girls retaliate with a "shopping weekend" in - where else? - Scarborough. It all culminates in Kylie getting drunkenly impregnated in the early hours on the beach by Tommo (i.e. the wrong bloke of the two). Mac, whom Kylie thinks of as her Beckham but who prefers to see himself as Roy Keane and who in truth conducts himself more like a robotic psychopath, is not best pleased. Unsurprisingly all the fragile best-friendships begin to unravel and the play descends towards its downbeat, if mellow, denouement.
Steel is clearly a keen student of John Godber's style of episodic, physical theatre and has a very similar propensity for witty (though mainly muckier) one-liners. Thanks to sharp and pacy direction by Gareth Tudor Price and vigorously energetic performances from a prodigiously talented cast - amongst whom the vulnerability of Williams, who made her professional
debut here in a not dissimilar role in Steel's Beauties, and the laid-back maturity of Hudson, who also throws in a couple of delightful caricature referees, are truly outstanding - Studs finally wins through in spite of, rather than because of, its unrelenting braggadocio.