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Phys Ed: 24:7 Theatre Festival

Sarah Tierney is won over by a rugger-loving PE teacher

Published on July 22nd 2009.

Phys Ed: 24:7 Theatre Festival

It's a wonder that PE teachers haven't featured in more comedy shows. The bitterness they inspire in ex-pupils and their inherent uncoolness should make them a prime target for revengeful writers.

He wears lycra, uses words like 'chuffing' and 'smashing', and enjoys a vigorous warm-up to the sound of Europe's 'The Final Countdown'.

In this show, which was penned by stand-up turned comedy writer Simon Carter, the script refrains from going for the easy, cruel gags, in favour of presenting a character you might actually like, as well as laugh at.

Neville Trellis is the rugby team coach at a boys' boarding school, and former captain of Yorkshire Rugby Thirds. He wears lycra, uses words like 'chuffing' and 'smashing', and enjoys a vigorous warm-up to the sounds of Europe's 'The Final Countdown'.

His twin brother meanwhile is England rugby star Eddie Trellis. But while Eddie gets the glory, Neville still loves the sport. He describes it as 'a hooligans' game played by gentlemen' (as opposed to football which is 'a crap game played by girls') and he's very excited about a forthcoming match against his arch-rival's school for the English Schools Rugby Invitation Cup.

This is a one-man show: a theatre style that's usually more fun for the actor than the audience. But talented Nicholas Osmond, who plays prattish but well-meaning Neville, is versatile and engaging enough to make an hour-long monologue pass in a flash. It might be a solo performance, but he brings to life a much bigger cast of characters with a knack for accents, comic timing, and a considerable range. The script moves between everyday chat, to childhood reminiscences, to lofty paeans to the beauty of rugby, and he handles all equally well.

Simon Carter's narrative moves along at a good pace with a decent sprinkling of funny lines but the ending feels rushed. If Neville hadn't told us the result of the big match half way through, the climax would have been stronger. That aside, Carter has created a well-rounded, very watchable character here with a tragi-comic quality reminiscent of the taxi driver narrator in Rob Brydon's Marion and Geoff.

His pairing with Osmond makes for a memorable play. If all the 24:7 productions are of this standard, audiences are in for an enjoyable week.

Phys Ed is showing at New Century House in the city centre on 23 July at 6pm, 25 July at 7.30pm and 26 July at 12.30pm. Tickets cost £8 (£6 concessions). Click here for more information.

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