DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Seasons in the Sun – East Riding Theatre, Beverley

Writer/Director: John Godber

Set and Lighting: Graham Kirk

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Seasons in the Sun, originally staged in 2000, can be taken as the archetypal John Godber play with a particularly strong autobiographical element. It is set very specifically close to Minsthorpe High, the school he attended and later taught at, with constant detailed reference to local streets. It concerns the adventures one summer in the 1970s of two ‘A’ Level students from Minsthorpe one of whom wants to be an actor. Godber’s love of writing about fishes out of water, people trying something they are patently unsuited to and either succeeding or failing comically and/or heroically, is there in the story of the two arty lads who decide to earn a bob or two on the bins before going to college. The culture clash and the occasional serious bit about social attitudes and the waste of talent are equally typical.

Unfortunately, in this case, the observational comedy is lacklustre compared to the best of John Godber, with an extended riff on unblocking a drain one of the few laugh-out-loud episodes and the young characters rather uninteresting. There are sharp lines and good gags – even at his less inspired, Godber retains his keen ear for convincing and amusing dialogue – but there is little momentum. It’s unusual to find a John Godber production that is so static.

The plot is simplicity itself. Paul and Spag go to work for the council while waiting for their ‘A’ Level results. Predictably they mess up and the regulars at work bully/scare/make fun of them and they, in turn, irritate with their immature attempts at surrealist humour. A binman’s suicide has comparatively little effect on them, they quarrel over Paul’s girlfriend, get their ‘A’ Level results and move on to the rest of their lives, whether at college or at home in South Elmsall.

There is an imbalance in the casting of Seasons in the Sun. Alongside two veterans of many a Hull Truck production, perfectly attuned to the rhythm of John Godber’s writing, are four young actors still in their final year of training, though with some professional experience in most cases. Jake Marsden (Paul) and Matthew Galloway (Spag) prove likeable protagonists and Martha Godber and Sade Malone are personable as Paul’s girlfriend and the secretary at the council site respectively, but don’t really convince in their other roles as women the boys meet on their rounds, characterised by the obligatory cigarette hanging from their lips.

Dave MacCreedy doubles up effectively as two twin brothers, each tensely explosive, one revealed in constant self-dramatising boasts and challenges, the other much more taciturn, and also does a nice turn as the site foreman, a sort of Blakey from On the Buses as played by Eric Morecambe. And then there is the wonderful Adrian Hood, the slow-moving, anything but slow-witted unblocker of drains, whose mastery of comic timing and the small gesture is a delight.

Graham Kirk sets a modestly enjoyable evening against a suitably drab background of a drab wall, a corrugated iron fence and a selection of vintage posters.

Runs until 19 May 2018 | Image: Contributed

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Modestly enjoyable

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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