Interview with John Godber
What was your inspiration for the play?
I wrote September in the Rain as a companion piece to an earlier play, Happy Jack, which was truly inspired by my grandfather, Jack Deakin, a giant of a man, and his little wife, Liz, who mostly controlled his tempers. Jack had been orphaned and was a volatile, but loving character who adored his two daughters, my Mum and my Aunty. In many ways the relationship of Jack and Liz is an amalgam of my parents heated but loving relationship, my grandparents stoical brooding relationship, and that of my wife Jane and I, which is brutally honest and hopefully healthy. We are still able to argue about anything and do, daily!
Do you have any other happy associations with the play?
Jane, my wife, played in Happy Jack along with Andrew Livingston, who found some fame with Victoria Wood before throwing in the towel. He had a part in Mr. Cinders and Jane was left alone when we were considering a sequel to Happy Jack to take to Edinburgh in 1983. I stood in, went to Edinburgh and Jane and I became an item. Thirty odd years later she is still Mrs Godber. September in the Rain was the first play we ever did together and Radio Four recorded us as their classic theatre slot in the play almost two years ago.
Where did the inspiration for the title come from?
‘September in the Rain’ was my mother’s favourite song, especially when sung by Jo Stafford, and it became her favourite play. After having flown to LA to see Bouncers win seven Los Angeles Drama Circle Awards in 1986, my mother told me that I should write something nice ‘like September in the Rain. Why did I always want to write about the gutter?’ I felt like George Bernard Shaw.
This is one of your most popular plays – why do you think people relate to it so much?
What's interesting in this play is that beneath the bickering is a real sense of affection. Jack and Liz are two people for whom language is not their most comfortable form of communication. The affection within the play is demonstrated through love and tears, and in many ways the non-verbal aspects of the play, the body language, the gestures and posturing are just as important as language itself for a miner and his wife. Jack is a man for whom noise, black soot, aggression and death were a daily reality. We see them desperately seeking to find each other and hoping to express their deeply held feelings in awkward ways in Blackpool, in the rain, rather obviously in September. September was the miners weeks holiday in West Yorkshire. It was what was called Leger Week back then, since it was the week the St Leger horse race was run at Doncaster.
How does it feel to be directing other actors in the parts you and your wife were the first to play?
Every actor brings something new to a part, and I guess John and Claire recognise something of themselves or people they know in this simple but deeply human tale. A director told me twenty years ago that September was one of the few plays that communicated what love is. Maybe it has stood the test of time because that is true? We need love in the theatre at any time, and perhaps we need to see it expressed more openly in this fast-paced, digital, insensitive age more than ever, since despite whatever we may think about the world, if you cut us, we bleed.
Do you think the glory days of the traditional sea-side have passed?
Liz says in the play ‘Blackpool's changed, everything changes!’ but maybe some things remain the same!