REVIEW: September in the Rain

FAMILIARITY can breed contempt but not in the hands of John Godber in this gentle rollercoaster ride through a couple's life together.

September in the Rain

Dilys Guite Players

Lantern Theatre, Sheffield

They say nostalgia ain’'t what it used to be and this 1983 Dilys Guite Players’ two-hander centres on the heyday of Blackpool holidays, with the Golden Mile, donkey rides, 99 ice creams, pac-a-macs, waxworks, talent contests and middle aged men with their trousers rolled up and a knotted hanky on their head. 

Godber based September in the Rain on his own childhood memories as well as his grandparents’ tales of the days when Blackpool was king and thousands — myself included — spent holidays there every year, usually in the same guest house and often with all the family and friends along, too.

So we meet Jack, a miner, and his wife Liz, superbly played by Simon Hanna and Alison Glentworth, reminiscing about the highlight of their year — a week in Blackpool in September. 

We see them packing into their new Ford Popular then encountering traffic jams on the long trip to Blackpool and a non too friendly lorry driver. 

Time passes from newly weds to parenthood to old age, with the pair by now taking the Wallace Arnold bus home to Yorkshire. 

It’s a bittersweet seaside postcard of holiday memories —  the ups and downs of marriage, the rows and the making up until you can't wait to do it all again next year. 

Jack and Liz are like chalk and cheese. 

Simon Hanna is marvellous as taciturn, emotional Jack, who’s ready to let his fists do the talking when jealousy comes over him yet blubs his way through his favourite show, The Student Prince. 

Just as warm and funny is Alison Glentworth as Liz, a woman whose life is tinged with the sadness of what might have been. 

After a hurtful row she walks off, threatening to leave Jack halfway through the holiday. 

But of course that will never happen as she knows she’s got more to lose than to gain.

The actors play off each other beautifully, deftly performing anecdotes and stories about sewer men and promenade photographer's using monkeys as props. 

In one delightful scene, Hanna perfectly captures an end-of-pier MC, while Glentworth as the couple’s little daughter, Pam, gives a rendition of My Girl’s a Yorkshire Girl. 

The relationship is totally believeable, with neither Jack or Liz without their faults as the humour turns into real-life drama.

With a minimalist, cleverly devised set, the Lantern’s space encourages a sense of intimacy with the two characters, while Phil Eardley’s direction nicely balances all the humour and poignancy of a very human tale.

Through the tears and the rain Jack and Liz can still smile.