September in the Rain
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.
Reviewer: Mark Dee, Northwest End
Reviewed: 14th July 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★
Until last night, I knew only a handful of plays by John Godber (Bouncers, Shakers, Teechers, Up 'N' Under) and although they seem to be very popular choices with amateur and professional companies alike, they really are not my cup of tea, and so when I was asked to go to another play by Godber this evening, it was with some trepidation.
September In The Rain however proved to be quite atypical of the body of work I already knew from this renowned contemporary playwright. In his other, earlier comedies he is raw, rough and ready, angry and highly satirical. There is a vehemence and a mockery of society present within these plays, and although they are small cast plays, the cast are invariably asked to morph into other characters in front of us without costume change. These things, as far as I was concerned were the trademarks of Godber. Tonight's play was much more gentle. There was still an undercurrent of the anger, the violence and the satire. These things hadn't been lost completely. Neither had the split second character changing. However this was much more competent and mature writing. These elements were coated with a blanket of self-assuredness and was a much more fully-rounded play because of it. It was a gentle, nostalgic, bitter-sweet tale of holiday reminiscences, and a very real look at the interdependent relationship of bickering couple Jack and Liz.
Speaking directly to the audience, the two of them reminisce about one of the many holidays they took to Blackpool [in September, in the rain] in the 1950s if the costuming and popular culture references were anything to go by. With the use of two wooden chairs and little else, the couple take us on their journey from their home in deepest darkest Yorkshire to Blackpool, through their holiday highlights (a rollercoaster ride, going up Blackpool Tower, walking along the prom, sitting in a shelter or sitting on the beach in deck chairs) to going back home again. It is a slow-moving, gentle pastiche, with good use of humour. It is also a very real and well-observed human comedy. I am old enough - just- to remember elements of what I witnessed last night when going on my first holidays with my parents. [Men wearing trousers rolled up to their knees and knotted handkerchiefs on their heads dipping their bare white feet into the sea ]. I also know quite a few couples who have such a difficult and tiring relationship - one of constant rowing over minutiae; of getting on each others' nerves but then making up a few minutes later; of forever fussing over each other and then getting annoyed about it.
It was directed ably, sensibly and sensitively. All I can say about the actors is that both Jack and Liz were excellently cast, not only for their physical requirements but for their acting ability too. They worked excellently together and were very real and believable. The simple set of a star curtain and projected tower as backcloth, a few coloured fairy lights and two wooden chairs worked excellently, and the LX was perfect. The changes from sunshine to rain, cloud, evening etc were spot on every time, and the short dance sequence at the end with the mirror ball was lit perfectly.
Just a note to say what a brilliant performance last night, my friend Trish and I enjoyed every minute. Amazing. I imagine it has taken so much effort to produce a performance which came across so naturally, although I have to say that Liz did remind me of myself!! Well done to all your team, it would be great if you could take the performance to other theatres. Please keep me posted of future productions and well done again. Best wishes,
Great performances and designed perfectly for touring. Congrats all round.
You made me cry! What a roller coaster of emotions. Fabulous, as I’m sure everyone has been telling you. Great job. Well done
Really enjoyed it tonight. So funny. Brilliant acting. Well done.
Congratulations on a brilliant performance last night. Amazing! Well done and good luck with your future ventures with The Little Diamond Theatre company. Best wishes
Just to say how impressed I was with your performance last night. To say I was knocked out is an understatement! Are you taking that performance to further venues? I would definitely see you in it again being such a huge fan! A huge round of applause!
J Eglin x
Fantastic! Really fancy some chips now.
September in the Rain at the Oldham Coliseum was superb and they raised a few grand for the kids
Superb outstanding an absolute joy from beginning to end
What a fabulous play and great night tonight. Very professional acting, entertaining, amusing, just fabulous!
Scenes from a melancholy marriage permeate. Heartfelt and wry. Deserving of a longer run
What a fantastic show last night at Oldham Coliseum. Sarah and Steve were fab!
Congratulations on a wonderful production of September in the Rain at Oldham Coliseum last night. THANK YOU
Sincere congratulations on the excellent performance last night. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. It was a great. Please put us on your emailing list for your next production.
Amazing tonight. It was soooo good
Fabulous night, great actors and tip top direction.
A Fairclough xxx
I thoroughly enjoyed your play tonight and the performances were absolutely brilliant/fabulous. Well done indeed
Magnificent that's all I can say! It was brilliant, many thanks.
Really enjoyed the play . First night, flawless, well done. Hope that the tour goes ahead.
Truly amazing. Congratulations on your performance
You will have to let me know when you are doing the performance again as I totally loved it (I’m not usually a theatre goer) and will be recommending it to everyone I know!!!!
Stupendous performance. I’m full of admiration. A most enjoyable play. A lot of it very close to home. To hold so many people transfixed for a lifetime of Blackpool holidays was a superb feat
The show was fab! Congratulations to everyone involved. Was great!