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Interview with John Godber – Scary Bikers

 John Godber
John Godber

The Scary Bikers is an original comedy by The John Godber Company starring John Godber and his wife Jane Thornton opening at Trafalgar Studios on Thursday 4th April, 2019.

When retired miner Don (Godber) and former private school teacher Carol (Thornton) 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.

With themes of finding love after loss and the ongoing impact of the Brexit vote, Don and Carol travel across Europe as they reconcile the past, debate the present and worry about the future.

John Godber answers a few questions about Scary Bikers.

Q. Why ‘Scary Bikers’? How did the ‘seed’ begin and how has it evolved?
John: I live near Hull but was born near Wakefield, and whilst I and most of my friends voted to remain in the EU, both Hull and Wakefield voted in huge numbers to leave. So I began to try and do my own straw poll on why that was the case. Scary Bikers is the end result.

Q. You wrote, direct and act in Scary Bikers – pros and cons of this?
John: Jane and I hadn’t been on stage together for twenty-five years or so, even though we had done many of my plays on radio together. Whilst I don’t think I will ever play James Bond, I do have the shape and size to play a redundant West Yorkshire miner, and playing against my wife and partner of thirty-eight years always means things are fluid, organic and real, which I think is essential in the theatre. Of course, taking notes from your wife can be tough especially when she is generally right, so we employed a long time friend Neil Sissons formerly of Compass Theatre Company to help direct the play. This gave us the referee we needed.

Q. Can you tell us about your characters Don and Carol?
John: I needed characters who were from either side of the political fence, so Don is a hospital porter who voted to leave, Carol is a former private school teacher from a minor public school who voted to remain. But they have two things in common, one; they have recently lost their partner, and secondly, they are trapped on a tandem on their way to Florence.
Don is rather like a bull in a china shop and Carol is far more excitable and cultured. In a way, this is a romantic comedy where the romance never quite blossoms.

Q. While a ‘comedy’ – what is at the heart of production, apart from making people laugh?
John: It’s always awkward deciding what a play is about, I’ve always thought that that’s the audience’s job. You would always want the play to feel true, and honest, and to let the characters breathe so that if there are any political debates in the play they always feel as if they are generated from real events and not pasted on for a point scoring exercise. In my own mind, however, I wanted to give a sense of how far the people I spoke to felt disconnected from their political masters of all colours.

Q. Do you have a template for writing plays?
John: No, not as such. I remember a conversation with Alan Ayckbourn from years ago when he said you finish a play and then you think, enough, no more and suddenly the like root of a play starts to grow in your mind, and then before very long you’ve become obsessed by it and can’t help but grow it into a play. I guess after having written so many plays and screenplays etc its rather the same for me. Though I am fired by inequality and unfairness – but that’s maybe saying too much about my background.

Q. Working alongside Jane on this production – do you take your work home or do you have a ‘time-out’ agreement?
John: No we very much take our work home, its extremely difficult to leave it, especially since Jane is a writer too, and our daughters are also involved in making theatre too. I wouldn’t say its always healthy but its certainly lively!

Q. Is Scary Bikers an analogy for society and EU/UK governments during Brexit.
John: I think it is but it’s much more than that, the politics works through the characters and what they’ve been fed and how misguided or not they are.

Q: Why should everyone get along to see Scary Bikers?
John: I’d like the think that whilst the play is very amusing, it’s also very touching and with Jane and I in the roles, the authenticity of voice is without question. Whilst it deals with the Brexit issue it is more about loss and friendship and what it means to be English if you come from an area of the country that has been mostly ignored since the Miners strike.
Interestingly when we toured the play last year the response from the southern venues was just as sympathetic and positive as the response from our Northern hot spots. We’re very much looking forward to playing in the immersive ambience of Traf 2, it reminds of Hull Truck’s old Spring Street Theatre in Hull where we both started.

The Scary Bikers
Trafalgar Studios
Booking through to 4th May 2019

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