It’s a lovely sight to have two things missing from theatre: regional voices and deaf actors centre stage. It’s a testament to the attitudes of touring theatre that each of these are on the rise, seen more often on large stages than in years gone by.
This production of Up ‘N’ Under makes the rugby team that Arthur is forced to coach a Deaf one. He cannot sign, and they cannot hear him. This makes Reg’s character considerably worse than a friendly chat: he is actively deeming this group of disabled players less than his own hearing team.
There are some fantastic moments of theatre though where the rugby players chat alone entirely through sign, and without signing. Their depth of storytelling is commendable and honestly the funniest part of this comedy. The show apologises for the loss of captioning though, which seems strange in a show which places such an emphasis on its accessibility.
Otherwise it largely falls flat. It’s too slow and quite frankly, the story isn’t interesting enough. You champion the team, but never really champion Arthur. There isn’t enough depth to him or his attitudes to the bet in order to latch onto anything in this performance beyond hoping that the team do win.
It’s an interesting idea but I think that an original play would serve it better, more tightly focused around the ideas of representation and communication. This script isn’t funny and not good enough to gel with the ideas of representation that emerge in the play.