Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
1984. The Robins [Hull Kingston Rovers] won the Championship / Premiership double, and John Godber's Up'n'Under took to the Hull Truck stage for the first time.
It tells the story of a hopeless pub Sevens team who are pitted against the formidable Cobblers Arms. Thanks to their self-appointed manager Arthur, who has a fortune riding on the result, and their ballsy trainer Hazel, they go into the final with a sporting chance …
Godber is a great favourite at the Queen's, and resident company Cut to the Chase and Artistic Director Bob Carlton have come up with a fresh take on this well-loved fable, performed in their unique style, against a simple but striking set – stars, screen, locker room and turf.
I'll admit I have seen the all-important game itself done more excitingly [the six actors have to play both sides], but the use of a shadow screen was effective. And there were many really funny sequences, especially the routine in Hazel's gym which ends the first half. The gum shield moment, Phil's hot-water-bottle dream, the work-place confrontations, and the wonderful curtain call, were memorable too. Music – almost all done a cappella by the cast – was brilliantly incorporated into the action.
And the cod-Shakespearean choruses to this history worked very well.
Many familiar faces [and thankfully less familiar backsides] on view in this line-up. Jared Ashe, as the bewildered butcher Frank, delivered the prologue and a good few of the laughs, Tom Jude was Steve as well as the slippery rival manager Reg, Mark Stanford the keen young teacher, and Callum Hughes a fresh-faced apprentice.
Simon Jessop was a believable Arthur, making this erstwhile hot-head a rounded character rather than simply a figure of fun. And Karen Fisher-Pollard more than held her own against the “tissue-paper gladiators” - her scene with Arthur one of the tenderer, subtler moments.
But appropriately, this was all about team-work, and the pace and the pitch-perfect performances made for a very entertaining 90 minutes on “the playing fields of Castleford”. And the audience went home very enthusiastic: “I'm so gonna buy a ticket and see that again,” said one lad as we left – far too young to have even heard of Eddie Waring ...