Monday, 20 September 2010

Up 'N' Under starring Abi Titmuss Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne review

Up 'n' Under
Devonshire Park Theatre
20-25 Sept 2010

Performance seen 20 Sept

Cast (Programme listed order - not appearance order)

Hazel Abi Titmuss
Phil & Reg Robert Angell
Tony James Crossley
Frank Eamonn Fleming
Arthur William Ilkley
Steve Lewis Linford

understudies Emily Evans and Zach Lee

Even with my short term memory problems I won't forget this show as it's the first time I have been practically licked to death by a celebrity's dog!

At the after show meet-the-cast event for The Friends Of The Devonshire Park Theatre Harry Lederman, chairman of The Friends, began his speech thanking the cast. I have to assume it was interesting as I didn't hear a single word as the delightful Danny's tongue was stuck in my ears, up my nose, in fact a totally free face wash! We absolutely love animals and I am sure that sometimes animals sense "pet softies" a mile off.

Abi was so apologetic but it didn't bother me in the slightest as he then went frantic for a belly rub - the only thing that worried me was how our cat was going to react to my new scent!

Abi re homed Danny only a few months ago from the Dog's Trust. I am sure the Trust won't mind me "borrowing" a small version their image in exchange for the image linking back to them? It may just encourage a few more adoptions of lovely dogs needing a new home.

Incidentally, Danny is now considerably bigger than he is pictured above!

Anyway Up 'n' Under........

I think it's fair to say opinions were fairly mixed in the audience and I understand that quite a few didn't stay after the interval, reportedly because of some bad language used in the play.

Hello? It's about rugby, not knitting!

A play about a rough sport, based in northern England, is not going to have everybody being polite and speaking the Queen's English with a toff's accent is it?

Actually I don't remember the actual "F word" being used all that many times. It was certainly used a couple of times but I seem to recall words like "effin" were substituted on most occasions. Not that I think it matters all that much given the subject matter.

For those who don't know the story Arthur is a former professional player. His career was ended for misconduct after attacking a referee. Arthur holds Reg responsible and despises this man who is now the  manager of the amateur team, The Cobblers Arms, who are winning everything.

Abi Titmuss 5 minutes after playing rugby!
In a moment of madness Arthur makes a bet with Reg. He asks him to name any team whatsoever and that in a matter of weeks they he will train them to beat The Cobblers Arms. The stake? Arthur's marital home!

The Wheatsheaf team is selected by Reg. Somewhat unsurprisingly they are the worst possible scenario for Arthur as not only are they utterly hopeless but they can usually only muster 4 players for a match.

By sheer luck Arthur meets Hazel, the very fit (in all modern senses of the word) daughter of a late rugby league legend.

After a lot of reluctance by the demoralized 4 Arthur and Hazel set out on their seemingly impossible task of getting Tony, Frank, Phil and Steve ready for the match of their lives.

This show surprised me because I'm not even a rugby fan but I enjoyed it. Why? Because it was different from your usual laugh a minute comedies. No slapstick, more like dry humour combined with "locker room" joking, dodgy rugby chants and plenty of sexual innuendo. The nearest to slapstick is the Wheatsheaf's funny version of the All Blacks Haka.

It's a very "moody" comedy drama where you are taken on a journey seeing how each of the players develop during their training and also learning more about their personalities. How will the short fat one fare? What about Mr Negative? Can Steve put as much effort into training as he does in lusting after Hazel? Can the muscle bound stripper perform with his kit on as well as off? Will Arthur end up homeless?

These are all questions that need to be answered in this play but I think there is one question that so many going to see this show will have on their minds....

The lovely Abi Titmuss star of Up 'n' UnderCan Abi Titmuss act?


I don't intend on resurrecting all of Abi's past here but there are a heck of a lot of people who actually misjudge, misquote and twist events that have actually happened in her past. She is one of those people in the public eye that has been in so many newspaper stories you have to wonder if the poor woman has been allowed any private life at all?

Some (women I hasten to add) said to me "she's done porn" well that is twisting the true facts of Abi's past to the extreme. 

I wondered if the pathetically small first night audience (salvaged only by one coach arriving) was somewhat caused by Abi's very misjudged reputation?

Besides, isn't what she's doing now what is relevant here?

Wikipedia may not be 100% accurate but it's pretty good at just quoting facts rather than fiction. Abi's entry is here (but please come back)
Unlike many she did not just leave modelling and TV work and try to pass herself off as a serious actress. No, she actually completed a course at the Central School Of Speech and Drama. Since 2006 she has appeared in multiple productions in London and around the UK.

She has proved she can take on the 'serious' roles such as Lady Macbeth and in 2007 she won a Fringe report Award for Best West End Debut for her performance in "Two Way Mirror".

If anybody thinks that this is just some dumb blonde trying to bite off more than she can chew why not judge her after watching the show? Personally I wish she'd been cast in Calendar Girls (no not for that reason honestly!) instead of somebody that was!

I have always found that the people the press love to hate are always some of the most charming and friendly to meet. My wife and I found Abi is no exception and although she is leaving her modelling days behind she gladly signed a couple of pictures for me. Mind you........... could have been because she felt sorry for me having had my after shave substituted with dog saliva!

James Crossley Gladiator Hunter and Eamonn Fleming
Lets not forget the rest of the cast though. They all play their parts really convincingly and come on ladies you have a former Gladiator in the show as your bit of "fit stuff". James "Hunter" Crossley's role in this isn't publicized very well for this production but if "celebrity" does attract theatre goers I'm glad to give him a plug here.

This 6' 3" muscle mountain is great as Tony even though in a later photo he did make me look like a midget!

I know my high rating for this one will be agreed with only by those who were with me in following the humour in this play. The guy sat next to me wouldn't , I don't think he laughed or clapped once. Actually I wonder now if he was alive? Perhaps I should have notified the St John's Ambulance attendee?

Joking apart there was one particular area of the audience which was following the humour better. I suppose I am again being somewhat controversial in saying these sounded like somewhat younger male audience members than the Devonshire Park normally attracts?

That is exactly what this show needs. Bus loads of lads and lasses in their 20's, 30's or 40's. It would work so much better with that age group. It must be so hard for the performers when they are giving a sterling performance only to hear sporadic laughter.

Go on lads leave the Eastbourne pubs quiet for one night this week and go and see Abi and her colleagues in what I thought was something different, yet entertaining.

They deserve a far better audience than they got on this opening night.

Would we see Up 'n' Under again? If it has a cast as good as this one is, yes.
4 out of 5 for Up 'n' Under with Abi Titmuss

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