MEN OF THE WORLD
by John Godber.
Hull Truck Tour to 19 June 2010.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 March at Cambridge Arts Theatre.
Truck takes to coaches.
Geographically out on a limb and with an identity very much its own, Hull is just the place to have John Godber as, effectively, resident playwright. And director of a company that’s a play factory for his own work, his wife’s (as she became) and several other playwrights who all, like Godber himself, write scripts that aren’t good plays, aren’t bad plays, but simply Hull Truck plays.
They suit a sizeable local audience – and the inner Hull in many elsewhere (consider the range of theatres visited on the second half of this spring’s revival; theatres where plays rarely go unless they have a largely naked cast or are stuffed with reheated songs from some decade or celebrity group).
While there’s little sophistication to Men of the World (there are better Godbers, there are worse) it’s accurately observed and its dialogue recognisably captures the language, manner and thoughts of northern working life. These are people few other writers bother much about.
Godber knows their half-serious mockery rooted in camaraderie, or the long-silent resentment lying beneath apparent friendship. He presents the silence-strewn repetitions of someone caught by inexplicable emotion. And the conversation that’s really parallel monologues from people wrapped in a train of thought, or just making polite chat.
So, perhaps it’s not all that unsophisticated. Even the story, which seems to go nowhere, actually uses a variant of a method found in Peter Nichols or Michael Frayn, as three coach-drivers setting off on a senior citizens’ outing recount a similar journey to Heidelberg, breaking off to create the passengers. Often simplistic, if comic, eventually a mood of life passing-by offsets the humour, among both travellers and the drivers themselves.
The original cast return in Godber’s revival. For if there’s a Hull Truck play-type, so there’s a distinct performance style, evident in this long-haul trio of real Truckers. Robert Angell’s Stick, with an edge of cruelty, and Dicken Ashworth’s more explosive, yet also reflective Larry are fine, while Sarah Parks combines technical flexibility – her voice lowering an octave or two for some of her male characters – with a real sense of authority.
Frank: Sarah Parks.
Stick: Robert Angell.
Happy Larry: Dicken Ashworth.
Director: John Godber.
Designer/Costume: Pip Leckenby.
Lighting: Graham Kirk.