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