*Edinburgh Veteran Denounces Modern TheatreDate: 13 August 1998
Playwright John Godber has lashed out against the state of theatre in Britain. In his opinion, no fewer than eight out of ten stage productions are tedious. Most people, including him, he says, would prefer to stay at home with a video rather than risk another boring evening out at the theatre.
Godber's pronouncement on the demise of theatre comes as his latest play, Unleashed, premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe and four other previous works are revived there during the month-long Festival. Godber is a long-standing veteran of the Fringe - his play Bouncers, about nightclub bouncers and their problems, debuted there in 1977.
Since then, Godber has become one of the country's most successful playwrights and certainly one of the most performed - coming third only to Shakespeare and the prolific Alan Ayckbourn in that regard. His five most performed plays are Bouncers, Teechers, Office Party, April in Paris and Up 'n' Under which has recently been released as a film.
Another new play, Perfect Pitch, about the perils of caravanning, is currently playing at Acykbourn's Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Bouncers will embark on a 21st anniversary national tour in the autumn.
In 1984, Godber took over as artistic director of the Hull Truck Theatre, which he uses as a launchpad for many of his own works. Under his direction, annual box office figures have risen from 16 to 85 per cent.
Though Godber's Unleashed has so far failed to impress the critics at Edinburgh, he is no less disparaging about the works of other playwrights and producing companies. They are are failing to stage plays that real people can relate to, he accuses, and they are guilty of clubbishness. Theatres, he believes, should be as accessible as swimming pools.
None of this vitriol, however, dims Godber's affection for Edinburgh. 'I made my career in Edinburgh,' he says in an interview with The Guardian. 'I love it, the festival is a great place to be and there's lots of people up there trying to do what I'm talking about.'