Scary Bikers at Trafalgar Studios | Review

Jane Thornton (Carol) and John Godber (Don).
Jane Thornton (Carol) and John Godber (Don).

One might wonder what cycling and Brexit have in common; well, truth be told, not a lot – but both are intimately woven into the fabric of John Godber’s latest endeavour, Scary Bikers. This two-hander, written, directed and starring Godber himself, alongside Jane Thornton, drills down to the heart of the decision most Yorkshire-dwelling folk took to vote leave in the EU Referendum, explored through the guise of a cycling trip around Europe.

Jam-packed with gags and emotion, Scary Bikers – yes, a pun on the famous TV duo – introduces us to Don (John Godber) and Carol (Jane Thornton). Both widowed, the pair grieve for their respective loved ones, and present us with a series of flashbacks: how their other halves died; how they met one another in the aftermath; and their subsequent decision to embark on Carol’s ‘bucket-list’ trip, cycling around Europe, riding tandem. It’s funny, touching and familiar, and, being a Yorkshire lass myself, I was happy to bask in the pleasant Yorkshire-isms the play has to offer. From the Tour de Yorkshire to the Minister in Beverley, Scary Bikers evokes a deep sense of comfort and homeliness, of what it means to be British, and the stark sense of both fear and loneliness in ordinary working people – that of being left behind.

Don used to work in the mines: references to the miners’ strike serve as a persistent reminder of how little has really changed. Which is where Brexit begins to come to the fore: Yorkshire largely voted out, but the reasons for this are manifold. Their polarised stances on this issue give both Don and Carol a platform to air their views, which quickly leads to misunderstandings and disappointment between the pair. A little bit awkward when you’re a thousand miles from home stuck in Italy somewhere, but a useful contrivance by Godber to make sure we’re all firmly placed in a microcosm where discussions of this sort are inevitable.

Yet whilst Godber clearly wanted to explore how such die-hard Labour territory came to believe the (what he evidently now sees as) ‘lies’ of the Brexiteers, Scary Bikers is most engaging when the conversation is personal, relationship, or story-driven, instead of preachy (as it occasionally becomes). Don and Carol are easy to fall in love with; their friendship is borne out of a mutual desire to be heard, to feel cherished, valued, and understood. It is the wider themes that resonate most: loneliness, grief, and learning to live again. Unfortunately, given its significant political slant, Scary Bikers is likely to become ephemeral, quickly falling out of fashion when the current political situation (finally) resolves itself.

Which is perhaps the ultimate disappointment in this play: its beautifully-crafted characters may very well fade away along with its political message. Either way, Godber invites us to consider our own position, as both people and voters, regardless of what camp we fall into: remain (you’ll want to stay in your seat until the end) or leave (with a smile printed firmly on your face).

4 stars

Review by Amy Stow

A new comedy about life, love and staying on your bike!
When retired miner Don and former private school teacher Carol meet by chance after both suffering a loss, they thought they’d found a new beginning. But a bike ride through Europe would test their budding romance, and the road to love is rocky when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Join them on their hilarious and heartfelt journey, as they reconcile the past, debate the present and worry about the future. Whether they’re saddle sore in Southampton, blistered in Bordeaux or frazzled in Florence, one thing is for sure – it takes two to tandem!

Read our interview with John Godber

Written and directed by John Godber
Performed by John Godber and Jane Thornton

Trafalgar Studios
2nd – 4th May 2019

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