ComedyDramaNorth WestReview

September in the Rain – Charter Theatre, Preston

Writer: John Godber

Director: Andy Pope

Reviewer: May Mellstrom

Do not be fooled by the title of John Godber’s 1983 play September in the Rain – if it brings to mind a cold, miserable autumn season rest assured that this production is in fact a charming summer treat that will cheer and warm the heart of its audiences.

Yorkshire couple Liz and Jack are embarking on their annual September holiday to Blackpool, only this time with increasing age and deteriorating health they wonder if it will be their last. They whisk the audience back through time to share memories of their previous pilgrimages to Lancashire’s most famous seaside resort; from the traffic jams, poky B&Bs and sudden downpours to the ice creams, donkey rides and trips up the Tower (and of course, competing over who can spot it first).

Although based on stories from Godber’s own family, his creations Liz and Jack are endlessly relatable and brought to life skillfully by actors Sarah Burrill and Steve Jackson, who appear as natural and comfortable on stage together as their characters do in their relationship. Whether bickering or laughing the affection and warmth between them is always clear and they are a likeable couple you are happy to spend the evening with.

The fluid direction by Andy Pope allows the actors to seamlessly switch between their older and younger selves. Both performers are adept at changing stance or accent to bring to life one of the other characters Liz and Jack meet along the way, including hotelier Mavis or sewage worker Sam. Additional costumes or props may have helped delineate further between the characters but the performances render this largely unnecessary. The set is simple with only the occasional suitcase or deckchair for scenery, however Mel Meadows’ sound design helps to subtly transport us all to the seafront.

There are lots of laughs to be had, whether it be the realistic and no doubt all too familiar arguments between the pair or the hapless attempts to put up a deckchair. There are moments of poignancy too and the play builds to a gentle, moving conclusion.

Multi-talented Sarah Burrill is not only a performer but also the producer of this production, the first from her recently established Little Diamond Theatre Company. Burrill left behind an admin job to start the company in 2015 and on this evidence one hopes that their future is as bright as the lights of Blackpool.

September in the Rain is a simple tale that does not break new ground but does not set out to. It is an affectionate, tender play with a heavy dose of Northern humour and an enjoyable central love story.

Tours until 23 July 2016

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