SHAFTED: John Godber.
Nottingham Lakeside Arts: Tkts 0115 846 7777 www.lakesidearts.org.uk
Run: 1h 35m: one interval: till Saturday, 19th March.
Review: Alan Geary: 14th March 2016.
Mostly one-sided agitprop about the miners’ strike.
John Godber’s new play about the 1984-85 miners’ strike is an old-fashioned parade of Thatcher-bashing cliché. But along with the dreary predictability, Shafted has some pertinent observations and a few (too few) laughs.
A two-hander with Godber himself as Harry and Jane Thornton, Godber’s real-life wife, as Harry’s wife, Dot, it flashes back and forth over the years between 1984 and 2014 to show us the ups and downs of their lives after the strike.
It’s an open-plan set, with a few well-chosen and easily moveable props to facilitate unfussy shifts of time and place. Location and year are flashed up on a helpful screen.
We see Harry working for the council as a pre-wheelie bin dustman, trying a spot of window cleaning along with Dot; and, also in partnership with Dot, running a bed and breakfast. There’s a scene where he’s painting giant novelty garden gnomes.
The particular Yorkshire dialect is sometimes hard to follow, but performances, especially Thornton’s, are good. Both actors portray advancing age, the state of health, and the fluctuating fortune of their characters well.
Shafted depicts the sad descent of part of the traditional working class into an underclass – there’s talk of their children going wrong. But it also presents a more positive picture. The Bridlington boarding house does well; and Harry’s next-door-neighbour, to whom he’s sold his ladder for twenty quid, builds up a flourishing business complete with van.
Via Dot, the play offers a counter-argument to Harry’s tiresome tunnel vision negativity and self-pitying. For her, all work, provided it’s socially useful, is something to be proud of: there’s nothing shameful about being seen round the estate carrying a ladder and a bucket of water; people will pay good money for clean windows.
Personal tragedy might be an inescapable element of profound social change. But the play lacks the necessary complexity and depth to explore this properly.
The background 80s music is the most exhilarating thing about the evening.
Harry: John Godber.
Dot: Jane Thornton.
Directors: John Godber and Neil Sissons.
Designer/Lighting: Graham Kirk.