Lyttelton Arts Factory, Lyttelton

12/07/2017 - 22/07/2017

Production Details

Written by John Godber

Presented by Top Dog Theatre

Presented by Top Dog Theatre

Top Dog Theatre perform another classic comedy, written by John Godber. In 2003 Top Dog performed Godber’s BOUNCERS in Court 2. In 2008, SHAKERS in the Arts Centre, and last year, Top Dog performed TEECHERS at the Gloucester room, Isaac Theatre Royal, again to packed houses.

Also famous for the Annual Summer Shakespeare at Mona Vale, TOP DOG THEATRE’s 2016 Winter production presents an evening of fun and laughter in yet another of John Godber’s award winning comedies.

Godber’s winning tale centres around Arthur (Tom Trevella), an ex-Rugby League player who could have still been playing were he not barred for life for violent conduct. The disciplinary board-member who pushed for his ban, Reg, (Aaron Boyce) is the manager of the local champions, the Cobblers; a team he is so proud of, he reckons they are unbeatable.

In a fit of piqued pride, Arthur bets Reg his house that he can coach any team to beat the Cobblers, with Reg to name the team. He does; the team from the Wheatsheaf Arms, a team so poor, whose place in the record books is held by never having won a game. Arthur now has five weeks to train the Stragglers to take on the Cobblers in their head-to-head, in an all-or-nothing battle with pride, ambition and livelihoods at stake.

British playwright, John Godber dishes up another wonderful night’s entertainment

Lyttelton Arts Factory (LAF), 1 Sumner Rd, Lyttelton
12th to 22nd July 2017 at 7.30pm
and Saturday 15th is at 6:30pm
(no show on Monday 17th).

Booking: through internet or possible doors sales : https://nz.patronbase.com/_TheLoons/Productions/1710/Performances

Running time is 90 minutes approx, with interval.

As our own website is still down, please refer here:   http://bethere.co.nz/event/25141

Arthur:  Tom Trevella
Phil:  Darren Sundborn
Frank:  Dan Crossen
Tony:  Dougal Frame
Steve:  Aaron Boyce
Reg Welch:  Aaron Boyce
Hazel:  Miriam van Voorthuizen 

Theatre , Comedy ,

A warm, accessible production on the coldest night of the year

Review by Grant Hindin Miller 13th Jul 2017

You have to hand it to the mixed age Cantabrians who, with hats and scarves on the coldest day of the year, brave sleet, ice, and rain, to support the opening night of this Top Dog Theatre production of a play that is based around a Sevens Rugby League match. 

John Godber is an English playwright with the common touch. In the Plays and Players Yearbook for 1993 he was identified as the third most performed playwright in the UK behind William Shakespeare and Alan Ayckbourn. 

Up ’N’ Under is set “somewhere in the north of England” and centres on an amateur Sevens Rugby League team from the Wheatsheaf Arms who can only ever muster a side of four (their pride lies in their unbroken record of defeat). They’re matched against the Cobblers Arms pub team and their corrupt manager, Reg Welch. The game has been engineered by Welch to win a bet with ex-pro Arthur who unwisely boasts that he could coach “any team” to beat Welch’s undefeated players.

Arthur’s only passions in life are his wife and rugby league. He’s the little man, the David against Welch’s Goliath, and he inherits the ill-favoured team from the Wheatsheaf Arms. Arthur has to motivate the Wheatsheaf losers to accept him as a temporary coach and take the preposterous challenge seriously. The players don’t know that Arthur has bet his life’s savings on the outcome of the match. To top it off the pitifully unfit set of men have to accept and submit to the advice of a trainer, who just happens to be a woman. 

Will they get with the programme? Can Arthur and Hazel motivate them? Will they submit to the training regime? How will they find another player? Will they struggle through adversity, come up triumphant and become a team?

The local Top Dog actors do us proud. Particularly strong is Tom Trevella, who plays Arthur, but they all pull their weight and this is an enjoyable show. Although at times I strain to hear Miriam van Voorthuizen, I enjoy her characterisation of sports trainer Hazel. The articulation of a couple of other players is at times challenged by the Northern English accent. This play could readily have been transposed into a New Zealand setting because of its subject.

The play uses multiple narrators – Frank (a butcher/footballer played by Daniel Crossen), Hazel (Miriam van Voorthuizen) and Arthur (Tom Trevella) – whose asides draw on Shakespearean speech pattern and rhyme. This device, employed by the playwright for comedic effect (elevating the play’s localised themes to a universal struggle between good and evil), is not always rendered effectively.

The set pieces work well, when the team breaks into song or assumes a team rhythm.

The action all takes place in simple open sets: a corner table becomes the pub; the weights and fitness runner in another corner become the gym; and the whole stage is dominated by central goal-posts. This is a play of two halves. The opening of the first act is slow. By contrast the second half is action-packed and much more engaging, and the climactic game is a successful theatrical celebration. The audience is vocal and gets behind their team as the game unfolds.

First produced in 1984, the play has a somewhat dated feel. There are references to music and film of the time, significantly to the Rocky films which serve as an inspiration to Arthur. The play has a lot of schoolboy humour – the English fixation with faecal matter – but hey, the play is a comedy, a footballer’s Full Monty, and the outcome has prophetic echoes of the All Blacks final World Cup game against France at Eden Park.

You can’t help liking the lads (and lady) – things happen that “never happen in Rocky” – one of the underdog players places a bet on the other side! Up ’N’ Under is a feel-good play with the common touch and Top Dog has succeeded in producing a warm, accessible production on the coldest night of the year. 


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