Perhaps the key to the success of John Godber’s authentic and entertaining version of Stan Barstow’s A Kind of Loving comes in his programme comment: “All the words are Stan’s.” For a much feted playwright this is, in the very best sense, a modest achievement! Barstow’s characteristic warmth and wry humanity are there, as is the regional feel which Godber feels is so essential.
Stan Barstow’s 50-year-old novel comes up as fresh as paint, but without any attempt at modernising. In fact, part of the appeal is the parade of 1960s hits accompanying the scene changes which are handled with humorous efficiency: what better companions could you have for an evening revisiting pre-permissive love in the West Riding than the Marcels or Danny & the Juniors?
A Kind of Loving relies on truth rather than sensation. The story summarised seems almost ridiculously simple. 20-year-old draughtsman-turned-record shop manager Vic Brown and 18-year-old secretary Ingrid Rothwell are walking out together with no intention of an early marriage (or, maybe, of marriage at all), but her pregnancy leads him to “do the right thing” by her. Gradually they work through to “a kind of loving”, despite a condemnatory society and her mother who gets her revenge for the white church wedding she never had by persecuting Vic and brainwashing Ingrid.
The adaptation preserves much of the text by using Vic as narrator and plays out the action in a neutral space filled, as needed, by bits of furniture and surrounded by identical back doors in Foxton’s industrial townscape. John Godber’s direction is beautifully detailed, with narration and action intertwined to great effect.
Central to the production, of course, is the relationship between Ingrid and Vic, captured in extremely natural performances by Vicky Binns and Byron Owen, she subtly conveying the changes brought about by accepting, and then rejecting, her mother’s malign influence, he a persuasive narrator who has as good a rapport with the audience as with Ingrid. Filling some dozen smaller parts are four stalwarts of previous Godber productions, all excellent. Dicken Ashworth and Christine Cox are Vic’s basically kindly parents, with severe limits on the closeness of their relationship with their son, and Robert Hudson is the tolerant Mr. Rothwell, attempting to moderate the social aspirations and fanatical possessiveness of his wife, played by Jacky Naylor. All have their moments in other parts, too, including Naylor making the most of Dorothy, Ingrid’s malicious friend, who joins them on a date, and Hudson staggering and slurring through the most incapable drunk since Freddie Frinton.
A Kind of Loving runs at the Theatre Royal Wakefield until 23 March. For further information visit www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk