Monday, 14 March 2016

"Shafted" by John Godber
Lakeside, Nottingham

There's a few things that you can guarantee when going to see a John Godber play. Comedy, interesting characters and down to earth, plain speaking language. All of these and more are in John Godber's new play.

Dot and Harry, played by Jane Thornton and John Godber, travel through 30 years from 1984 to 2014, following the miner's strikes. Harry has lost his job and feels that Maggie Thatcher's government has "shafted" him and Dot. The loss of his job has also stripped him of a lot of his pride, but not that much that he sells their window cleaning round because it's not what he feels he should be doing. He is a proud man and doesn't want to accept anything beneath what he thinks he should be doing, and careful enough for him not to delve into the £80,000 redundancy fund.

Dot is holding down two jobs while he stays at home, and you can guess that this is putting strain on their marriage, and that's when Dot comes up with the idea of them running a Bed & Breakfast in Bridlington. Harry, steadfast and stubborn, digs his heels in because he doesn't want to leave the place that he knows and loves.

Dot is shown as the manipulator of the pair and Harry being the stubborn one, but Dot digs her heels in as well and she gets her way. Does that make her a manipulator or just a clever, strong and independent woman?

In act two we find the pair towards the end of their lives with Dot being pushed around in a wheel chair, which starts a clever reverse history of their life going back to the day they left their home in Upton. It's also quite a subtle reversal as Harry is literally pushing Dot around whereas before Dot was the one who did the pushing of harry in the direction he needed to be going, in every sense of the word.

One thing about Godber's characters that I love is the realism of the characters and the chemistry between the man and his wife. Being real life man and wife, the chemistry is there and this really shows in the way that they act, react and speak to each other, making Dot and Harry instantly believable and you warm to them from the start.

This could have been a political story but it's not. There are enough films and plays that deal with the miner's strike but this deals with the aftermath of the strike, it's about how Dot and Harry coped with the cards they were left with. They were given lemons and they made the best lemonade they could. And when it's all stripped back, at it's base, this is a love story between two people who stuck together through thick and thin. That love and respect for each other shows through and I don't think these two could really do without the other, despite how they sometimes berate each other.

The language at times is coarse, again something that Godber isn't afraid to shy away from, injecting realism and creating totally believable roles and situations.

The play is created in separate scenes of action, each one split by a piece of music from the era. Act one from the mid 1980's with act two drawing on music from Ellie Goulding, back through the 1990's and again to the mid 80's.

This isn't a long play but it packs a lot in with some trademark one liners and regional sayings and accents. Directed by John Godber and Neil Sissons with the effective lighting and set designed by Graham Kirk. It's a play that will make you think how much something that happened over 30 years ago affects those still around who, like me, can remember the strikes and the hardship at that time. It'll also give you some chuckle muscle action.

"Shafted" is being performed at Lakeside, Djanogly Theatre until Saturday 19 March 2016.

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