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Women's team wow the home crowd with winning play

Muddy Cows, Rugby Theatre, until Feb 11

As England triumphed against France on the first day of the Six Nations, an all-female team at the home of rugby put in its own winning performance.

Muddy Cows is set in a world of women’s rugby that has changed since it was first performed and “ladies” sides suffered all kinds of discrimination.

Bemoaning “the facilities provided”, the cast of six energetic actors make for a rousing evening.

Opening to the strains of Jerusalem, England veteran, Maggie played by Laura Hopwood, tries to enthuse her team, even if only to field a full side of 15.

Set in Yorkshire the ensemble cast maintain authentic accents as their roles as housewives, lawyers and doctors emerge naturally from their initial introduction on the training ground.

Some early scenes flagged a little but a night on the town complete with inflatable doll showed nice touches of physical humour and the emerging team of sportswomen rose above the ladette stereotypes.

They bicker about the lack of support from their male counterparts whilst shoving a scrum machine made of palettes around the stage.

Victoria Stakelum’s doctor Jess provides a good foil for coach Maggie in discussing the future of the side and Cheryl Ryan’s lush, Fran, keeps the comedy to the fore.

The second half, prefaced by Swing Low Sweet Chariots, builds to a confrontation with the mighty Black Ferns, complete with Samosas from Polynesia. Set in a convincingly disgusting changing room the team compete in a Seven’s tournament.

They return from each encounter admirably muddied and battered but cheerfully snacking on pickled onions and downing G and T’s.

The audience is subjected to seriously upsetting amounts of Deep Heat spray as the real world distracts from the on-field battle.

Twins Donna and Daisy, played by Jayne Rayfield, rotate through the toilet door with Feydeau efficiency.

The ending has a satisfying emotional closure and the cast enjoyed a much deserved ovation and curtain call from the house.

This was a great evening for players and non-players of all genders and well worth a visit.

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