Five minutes with… playwright John Godber

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Published: Thursday 13th April 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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John Godber is the third most frequently performed British playwright. We caught up with him to chat about his latest work.

Your new show, The Empty Nesters’ Club, is about two parents coping with the kids leaving home. Where did the idea come from?

The inspiration was from our personal experience of our daughters going to university.

Martha is in Liverpool at LIPA, the centre of ecxellence supported by Paul McCartney, and Liz got a first from the School of English at Hull and is now at Leeds doing her MA.

Jane and I, like many parents, had invested so much into getting them to university, we hadn’t quite spotted how we would feel when they actually went.

Though in fairness Liz lived at home, which was ironically a constant reminder that Martha was away.

How has it been developed?

We previewed the play last year at East Riding Theatre in Beverley, which so reminds us of the old Spring Street theatre. It was very much a family project.

Since then, thanks to Liverpool John Moores University’s drama department, we have reworked the play extensively.

The reactions on tour have been first class, and we are very much looking forward to coming home to Truck, where it looks like it’ll be a sell-out week.

Can you tell us a little more about the show?

We have a new cast, with Jess Morley playing daughter Millie and Jane Hogarth from Hollyoaks playing her Mum. Rob Angell plays the dad in a performance described by The Times as “superb”.

Jess is Hull born and bred and I have known her since she was at St Mary’s. Last year she toured my play about the NHS, This Might Hurt.

She also has a small part in The Last Laugh, the film we shot in town last year.

Jane is extremely experienced and utterly believable as Jess’s mother Vicky, who sets up The Empty Nesters’ Club.

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What else is the John Godber Company up to this year?

We are currently rehearsing Shakers for a month-long run at East Riding Theatre from 26 April.

The play has been reworked and features four young local actresses, Annie Kirkman, Katie Huntsman, Laura Aramayo and Amy Thompson, who all bring great authenticity to the play.

We are very keen to support local talent, and Shakers tickets are going fast.

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Meanwhile, my wife Jane is involved in a very exciting project called Ocho. It’s her play about the eight men from Hull who went to fight in the Spanish Civil war.

Can you tell us more about this project?

The play involves eighteen students from Archbishop Sentamu in east Hull, and the music of Dave Rotheray and Gary Hammond.

Jane is directing the production for a number of performances at Archie’s, the ERT and in the Sewell Groups Hub.

Sewells have been incredibly generous in sponsoring the production, enabling the students to travel to Barcelona to perform the play. Plus all the creatives involved have given their time and talents free of charge to support these young people.

Lord Prescott has also supported the project, plus our company and other local businesses have parted with cash to sponsor the production.

The Institute of Arts Barcelona is the leading actor training centre in Europe, which is where these students from Hull will be performing in July. They are understandably very excited, as is everyone involved with the Ocho project.

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It sounds like a busy year! Anything else lined up?

I’m busy working on The Kings of Hull, my new comedy about the King family from east Hull and their rugby fanatic father and his daughters, who are a challenge for anyone.

This is a big exciting project and I’m very much looking forward to being involved with the opening of another theatre in the city, after the £16 million redesigning of the New Theatre.

The play is a result of a direct conversation between myself and Hull City Council. Casting is already underway, with Pippa Fulton, Hull’s original voice, already signed up to play one of the Kings who has moved across the river to the west of the city.

Anyone who remembers the BBC Four film Thunder Road will have been struck by the brilliant local performances, some of which will feature in The Kings of Hull.

Music for the production is being written by Ruby Macintosh, a rapidly rising Yorkshire singer-songwriter who was mentored by Sir Paul McCartney when she was at LIPA, where she got a first.

It will also feature Grace Christiansen, Hull University drama student and singer-songwriter, and Jake Marsden and Joe Hall, great new local talent.

I’m also pleased to say that Jess Morley has agreed to join the cast to play one of the Kings; a female Hull prison warden. Jess brings real authenticity to the Kings project, which will be enjoyable for anyone who knows the city well.

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Book now

Book your tickets to The Empty Nesters’ ClubShakers and The Kings of Hull before they sell out!

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Published: Thursday 13th April 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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