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September in the Rain

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars
When Hull was named last week as UK City of Culture for 2017 ahead of 
an already flourishing Dundee, one suspects a secret weapon called John 
Godber may have had much to do with it. Few playwrights, after all, 
have celebrated the mores and aspirations of ordinary Yorkshire folk 
with such a populist flourish than Godber, who, as artistic director of 
Hull Truck Theatre, put the city it called home on the map from the 
1980s onwards.

It's interesting, therefore, to see Godber revisit this early work, in 
which he takes a gentle look at the lives and times of Jack and Liz, an 
elderly couple whose relationship has been mapped out by their annual 
off-peak holiday to Blackpool. Based on Godber's own grand-parents, the 
play sees the pair rewind their way back to their newly-wed days. Their 
world may be coloured by dodgy B & Bs, fortune tellers and funfair 
rides, but there's a simmering uncertainty about where they're heading.

As Jack and Liz confide in the audience, the play's opening may 
resemble an oral history project, but, in Godber's directorial hands 
for this touring production, this isn't nearly as sentimental as it 
sounds. John Thomson's Jack is patriarchal, bullying, set in his ways 
and full of barely suppressed rage. Claire Sweeney's Liz, meanwhile, 
gives as good as she gets,even as she argues her way towards some kind 
of independence she never quite achieves. Played in a 
quasi-vaudevillian style which both actors revel in, Godber's look at a 
generation who stayed together whatever may be a labour of love, but 
there's an underlying edge that goes beyond cosy nostalgia.

The Herald, November 27th 2013

ends

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