Culture, class and the role of the theatre at heart of new John Godber playMonday 23 November 2015
John Godber’s new comedy about culture, class and the theatre comes to The Capstone Theatre for one night only on November 24th as part of Liverpool Hope University’s 15th Cornerstone festival.
Poles Apart, currently on a national tour, centres on the class and cultural clashes that happen when a team of scaffolders come into contact with a group of thesps.
John says: “Poles Apart examines the role of the theatre in the life of the working man and the role of the working man in the life of the theatre. Of course theatre should reach out to people where they are, but what happens when they just aren’t interested? It’s also a play about middle class sensibilities. The workmen in Poles Apart are pitched against the kind of people who say they want to love ‘the man in the street’ – what happens, then, when they are difficult to love?”
“I love bringing new plays to Liverpool. I feel there is a groundswell of interest in my work here. Bouncers has been produced here for three years. I remember reading a review of one of my plays in Liverpool, which said that it was so funny that it could have been written by a scouser. Scousers like a good story and they’re also great storytellers.”
John was on the judging panel of the first Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, which was awarded to Katie Mulgrew in April 2015 for her play Omnibus. Katie won a £10,000 prize and her work is currently being prepared for production at the Royal Court Liverpool.
John adds: “I believe very strongly that you have to make work for the stage that speaks to a constituency. It has to be legible. If theatre is classed as ‘popular’ it doesn’t mean it isn’t of quality. There has to be a point to it. I'd like my work to be seen as having something behind it, as well as making you laugh. As a writer, you quickly realise that you have no jurisdiction over what an audience thinks.
“I was always taught that theatre is a questioning organism. If it can be funny, even better. Think of the school lessons where you learn the most. They are usually the ones that are the most fun. Alan Ayckbourn has said that if he really thought about what he was laughing at when he went to see a comedy, he probably wouldn’t laugh.”
John also sees affinities between Liverpool and Hull, which has been named as a Capital of Culture for 2017 and where he worked for many years at Hull Truck Theatre.
“Liverpool and Hull are very different but in other ways they are extremely similar. Liverpool is a can-do city and is very good at celebrating itself, which we saw with the 2008 Capital of Culture. I think Hull is starting to wake up to that same need to celebrate itself, and to the realisation that it can be like cities like Liverpool in its can-do attitude.”