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Keepy Uppy – Theatre Royal, York

Writer: Evan Pacey

Director: Wendy Harris

Designer: Kate Bunce

Composer: Dom Sales

Movement: Joel Daniels

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Leeds-based, but with strong links to York Theatre Royal, tutti frutti and director Wendy Harris have a sure touch with plays aimed at children from the age of three upwards. Coming now towards the end of a longish tour taking in closed performances in schools as well as public performances in theatres, Keepy Uppy is very much in the tutti frutti tradition and is a very appropriate choice for World Cup time.

Young Joey is mad keen on football. So is his mother. The play deals simply with all the things that go wrong (and some that go right) on the day of Joey’s big match. Mum rouses him out of bed, they go through their football exercises together, he transforms his breakfast into an improvised football match, they lose (and find) the house keys, the kit turns out to be filthy so they must detour to the launderette, Joey’s brother has taken the half-time oranges so they head for the greengrocer, and so on, Joey getting later and later for the match. 

There are moments of realistic social observation. Mum’s tendency to hold everything up by launching into yet another mobile phone conversation rings all too true and is briefly and amusingly parodied by Joey. However, more typical are the pantomime-style disasters at the launderette or the time when Joey and Mum cover the stage in flags, dance their way to Brazil and build a snowman in Iceland.

Evan Pacey’s script is spare, leaving many scenes to dance, mime and movement accompanied by Dom Sales’ music, electronic or percussive or both, played by Vittorio Angelone who also appears as a shopkeeper or two and joins in some of the football mimes. Much of Pacey’s text is in easy-going rhyming verse, with some quite adult vocabulary, “pharmacist”, for example.

Danny Childs (Joey) and Eden Dominique (Mum) appear much of an age, but that doesn’t matter. Childs’ alternating enthusiasm and grumpiness and Dominique’s smiling conviction that all will go well are equally engaging. Now and again Mum hints at motherly scolding or anxiety, but mostly they are more like playmates, showing off their fancy moves with and without the ball and even pulling off a bit of conjuring, the trick spotted by an audience member – kids are so smart these days!

It’s clearly a play written and developed by football enthusiasts, with many name-checks for World Cup players and Wendy Harris and Joel Daniels seizing every opportunity for Childs, Dominique and Angelone to trap, balance, leap and run. Kate Bunce’s designs are full of the beautiful game, with what seems to be an astral football map as background, the stage area marked out as a football pitch, balls ranging from footballs to space hopper dimensions everywhere and sort-of-dressing-room-lockers yielding all the required props.

Touring nationwide | Image: Contributed

Writer: Evan Pacey Director: Wendy Harris Designer: Kate Bunce Composer: Dom Sales Movement: Joel Daniels Reviewer: Ron Simpson Leeds-based, but with strong links to York Theatre Royal, tutti frutti and director Wendy Harris have a sure touch with plays aimed at children from the age of three upwards. Coming now towards the end of a longish tour taking in closed performances in schools as well as public performances in theatres, Keepy Uppy is very much in the tutti frutti tradition and is a very appropriate choice for World Cup time. Young Joey is mad keen on football. So is his…

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