September In The Rain – November 2013

Experience: 6/10

Written and directed by John Godber

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 22nd November 2013

This is not John Godber’s strongest piece. It’s a two-hander full of reminiscences of earlier days, the 1950s in particular, and times spent together on Blackpool beach by Liz and Jack. They’re an elderly couple, based on Godber’s own grandparents, and they’d spent many of the family holidays in Blackpool over the years. We got to see them back as they were, recalling the events of some memorable Septembers on the West coast, getting soaked in the rain and occasionally having some fun. Personally I thought the fun was in not having to relive the events, given the amount of arguing and fighting that went on. And not just between the two of them; Jack was quick to use his fists in those days.

There was a fair bit of humour along the way too. The evening picked up once we got to the sewage story, and there was comic business as well such as the time Jack took to get two deckchairs set up on the beach. Naturally Liz wanted them put up somewhere else, so he had to go through it all again. She was always threatening not to go, or when they were actually in Blackpool, to leave. Frankly I found her character rather boring; there was little colour in Claire Sweeney’s characterisation and her constant sniping made me wish that she would get up and leave as Jack was much more entertaining company, even if he did flick a dead jellyfish into the audience – “Sorry, love”. (Nowhere near us this time – phew.)

Their miming was pretty good though; I could believe they were on a crowded beach even though they were the only two on stage, and we enjoyed watching them on the rollercoaster ride as they switched from the slow uphill climb to the downhill rush. They morphed back into their older selves for the final section, and while we wouldn’t want to spend time with either of them in real life, it was a pleasant way to spend an evening.

The set was fairly plain, but evoked the scene very well. Some steps at the back led up to a set of railings, and in the distance we could see Blackpool Tower, occasionally lit up for the night-time scenes. There were lampposts along the back and another couple forward of the steps with lights strung between them, and a stack of deckchairs over by the right lamppost. Two folding chairs were set up centre stage at the start, and along with a bin and some piles of sand to suggest the beach, that was it. The music was evocative as well; they played several tracks from a Ken Dodd album.

John Thomson did a good job as Jack when he had lines or business to do, but wasn’t so good at filling in the blank spaces. Claire Sweeney was OK but a bit bland, and Steve reckoned they had some sort of joke going on between them. He caught a number of smiles and near-corpses which I didn’t pick up on, but I did think that Claire always seemed to have a grin on her face, even when her character wasn’t supposed to be happy. The theatre wasn’t packed, but there was a fair crowd and we gave them a good response at the end.

© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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