Wed 5 Oct
words: LYNDA NASH photos: EMYR YOUNG
It was a game of two halves. First came the gentle build up, and then, after half time, came the crescendo of a finale. Tries were scored and penalties missed. There was a riot on the terraces the likes of which you would not see at the Millennium Stadium. As the game progressed so did the laughing, clapping, cheering and commiserating – not always in that order.
In this new adaptation by award-winning playwright John Godber Hull, rugby league has been exchanged for union sevens in the South Wales Valleys. Under the direction of Richard Tunley, Up ‘n’ Under: The Welsh Tour captures the ups and downs of the four man home team as they train to take on Merthyr – ups and downs which are all the more pronounced because there is a score to settle. At the start of this two act play, retired rugby player, Arthur, in a fit of anger and frustration with his arch rival Reg, makes a bet he could end up regretting. The only way Arthur can win, is to coach the worst team imaginable for a big local game. The four man team are an unlikely bunch – a teacher (who could have played for Wales), a mechanic, a stripper and a butcher. Yes, there are cheap gags, and the authentic language might offend the more sensitive ear, but the play has energy and spirit and the Blackwood audience bought into that.
The squad features a talented cast of some of Wales’ finest actors: Gareth Bale, Dion Davies (whose TV credits include Torchwood and Pobol-y-Cwm), Rhys Matthews, Richard Shackley (High Hopes and Rules Of Engagement), Giles Thomas and Sara Lloyd Gregory (Being Human, Torchwood and Doctors) put on a tight performance on and off the pitch (act one is set indoors and act two on the field). The play is narrated by Sarah Lloyd Gregory as gym owner Hazel –who embodies the spirit of her rugby hero father – and there are snatches of hymns and arias throughout. This is physical theatre at its best and we’ll keep a welcome in the hillside for Black Rat Productions.