SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN
by John Godber.
Tour to 30 November 2013.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 September at Richmond Theatre.
Comedy and sentiment and truth to life.
An early (1983) John Godber piece, this gentle, earthy play, like the previous year’s Happy Jack, contrasts such raucous, rough-and-tumble Godber plays as Bouncers or Up ‘n’ Under.
September is family history. Jack and Liz were the playwright’s grandparents and they took their holidays – religiously, you might say – every September in Blackpool. It was Wakes week in Barnsley, when factories shut down and workers had their holidays.
Yorkshire miner Jack and his Merseyside wife return year after year to the same boarding-house – only rarely changing accommodation. Days are spent on the sands. Arguing, mainly.
Just as they’d argued all the way there, Liz preferring coach travel while Jack insisted on driving his semi-reliable car. This holiday snapshot of a play suggests a week was plenty of time to bring the two to the brink of several separations. It’s a shame Godber never gave us Christmas with the grandparents.
Back in the eighties Godber’s Hull Truck Theatre Company was visiting small spaces, and the script’s probably still easiest with a couple of chairs and acting skills involving close chat to the audience.
Things are far bigger-scale now, with a promenade set, including a suspiciously modern-looking rubbish bin, and Blackpool Tower looking like something in an Impressionist haze, though it’s probably just September drizzle.
Directing his script, Godber aptly casts performers as used to entertainment as to actin; there’s a lot of comment to the audience, and the shortish scenes need quickly established moods rather than closely developing ones.
Yet Claire Sweeney and John Thomson create the sense of a long-established relationship, moving in age and amusing in youth. By the time they return to the garb and stoop of their older selves, they are imbued with humanity and an individuality that reaches out from the stereotypical figures they would be without the truth in Godber’s writing. He brings these people to life, hard-working, honest, quarrelling yet ultimately loving, at sea whenever they’re apart.
And if there’s any temptation to look down on them, a programme photo turns that to envy. These people visited Blackpool when Morecambe and Wise were playing there, live.
Liz: Claire Sweeney.
Jack: John Thomson.
Director: John Godber.
Designer/Costume: Pip Leckenby.
Lighting: Matt Eagland.
Sound: Matt McKenzie for Autograph Sound Recording Ltd.
30 Sept-5 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651 www.atgtickets.com/venues/richmond-theatre
7-12 Oct 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Brighton 08448 717650 atgtickets.com/venues/theatre-royal-brighton
14-19 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Waterside Theatre Aylesbury 08448 717607atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre
28 Oct-2 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Churchill Theatre Bromley 0844 871 7620 www.atgtickets.com/venues/churchill-theatre-bromley
25-30 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Glasgow 0844 871 7647 www.atgtickets.com/venues/theatre-royal-glasgow