In the programme for the latest production for the John Godber Company, the playwright states that for him this is a very traditional piece of work. The first sign of this is Pip Leckenby’s excellent set, a comfortable living room/kitchen.
Then the play is a two-hander, unusual for the fact that both actors play only one character each. As Godber points out, he’s likely to have actors skiing or playing rugby; in Losing the Plot they simply moan, phone, laugh, argue, drink or score points off each other, like ordinary people, though the accident-prone husband’s adventures with turkey innards and dog poo add a touch of the esoteric!
Losing the Plot is a realistic presentation of reactions to the problems of the onset of middle age, exacerbated by the current financial squeeze and the increasing philistinism of our rulers. Jack is an Art teacher, a great joker, a funny man, seemingly pretty well at ease with himself, plagued by such domestic difficulties as twin daughters who combine the helplessness of the young with the need for help with UCAS forms and university visits. His wife Sally, also highly educated, contents herself with running a flower shop (I can’t help feeling John Godber underestimates the intelligence required to run a flower shop), looking after the family and taking phone calls from her friend Julie. Jack is placed under pressure at work with the relegation of Art to the dark corners of education and the instant redundancy of a member of his department. Then he disappears. Godber is wise enough to give him no exact motive and no specific lesson learned when he returns three months later. There is a transformation, one that emerges slowly and therefore convincingly, but it concerns Sally.
John Godber directs with a light touch. Steve Huison and Susan Cookson inhabit the parts convincingly, for the most part underplaying with conviction, though the climactic debate on integrity in art prompts too many empty gestures from her (to be fair, Sally is drunk – and remarkably eloquent!). Huison brings out the combination of joker, bumbler and idealist very successfully, and Cookson manages to fade into her great transformation so smoothly that you can’t see the join.
Losing the Plot is not, I think, among the most memorable of John Godber plays, but it is entertaining and thought-provoking, and it’s good to see the Godber/Wakefield partnership flourishing so well.
Losing the Plot is at the Theatre Royal, Wakefield, until 9 February, then tours 14 theatres, including those in this area:
Feb. 19-23 Hull Truck Theatre
Mar. 11-13 Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield
Apr. 8-13 Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
Apr. 27 Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond
May 7-11 Harrogate Theatre