JOYCE MCMILLAN on SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 26.11.13.
3 stars ***
IT’S EASY to accuse John Godber of sentimentality, in his portrayals of English working-class life in the 20th century; perhaps even of being a shade patronising. His Yorkshire couples are always pithy, sharp-tongued, unromantic, full of old-fashioned, no-nonsense ways that have the audience heaving a nostalgic sigh. And in September In The Rain – first seen in 1983, and now revived in this gentle touring production starring Claire Sweeney and John Thomson – he even has his archetypal mid-20th century couple, Jack and Liz, taking part in the long-vanished ritual of a week’s holiday in Blackpool, complete with boarding-house teas, deckchairs, ice creams, and a trip up the Tower, in a howling rainstorm.
If the play is partly a stereotyped evocation of a lost working-class way of life, though, there’s also something tougher and bleaker going on, in Godber’s portrayal of a far-from-perfect marriage glimpsed both in its early days – when Jack and Liz spend a mainly wet 1950’s week in Blackpool, arguing, falling out, yet somehow enjoying themselves – and towards its end, when they make a final Blackpool visit in old age.
And none of these darker undertones are lost on the excellent double-act of Sweeney and Thomson, as they navigate their way through Godber’s series of short, sketch-like scenes, and conjure up the huge emotional compromises once made by millions of working-class people, in the effort to get on with life. Do Liz and Jack love one another? They do; but if the style of the show is reassuring, September In The Rain leaves us in no doubt that love and romance are not the same thing, and that the magic and glamour of the love-songs Liz and Jack sometimes poignantly sing is, most of the time, not for them, but for some other world.