by John Godber
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Chris Shinn.
"Money don't buy everything, it's true
What it don't get, I can't use
So give me money"
When Jean, one of the eponymous Lucky Sods, wins £2m on the lottery, she is in no doubt that the Beatles had it right all the way, but her husband Morris is not so sure. Jean can't understand why he can't simply rejoice in and enjoy his good fortune, but Morris cannot rid himself of the conviction that bad luck follows good. Although John Godber's play is described as a comedy, it has its bleak moments, and the final scene, of a man who has it all and yet has nothing, sends audiences home with plenty to think about.
Tim Boden and Rosie Wilson, as the middle aged couple who prefer bickering to the television as an evening's entertainment, had the difficult task of launching the play through two opening scenes with no other characters. However, their quick fire interchanges, delivered in convincing Yorkshire accents, provoked a good deal of laughter from the audience, especially during a well handled blackout scene, when an untimely power cut prevents Jean and Morris from finding out whether their three lucky numbers in a row are going to develop into anything more lucrative.
When it transpires that they are now millionaires, there follows the tricky task of telling the rest of the family. Morris's elderly mother (Valmai Furness), querulous and contradictory, tries his patience with her fears that her son won't want to know her any more, but his final "I love you, Mam" conveyed a touching sincerity. Annie (Jane Stewart) who feels that being Jean's sister gives her the right to read the begging letters and criticise the new lifestyle, and her husband Norman (Michael Husband) don't hesitate to voice their disappointment that Christmas presents are still soaps-on-a rope, and that the provenance of the sherry hasn't improved.
Undaunted, Jean and Morris head for the hills (Beverley Hills, that is) to live the high life and mix with the celebs. However, the death of Morris's mother brings them back to Yorkshire with a bump, and only serves to accentuate the growing differences between the couple, with Morris's misgivings that unearned good fortune must be paid for eventually. Old flame Connie (Wendy Croft) seduces Morris into a trip to Amsterdam, and presents the possibility of a new start away from Jean. Another, larger, lottery win provokes the final breach between the couple, and Jean does not try to prevent Morris from leaving. Morris, with Connie in tow, tries to become the suave dinner-jacketed bon viveur, but is eventually driven to confess that he's still a fish and chips man at heart. Returning home, he finds that his presentiments have proved accurate and that tragedy has overtaken Jean .
The play was presented on an open stage, with cleverly designed split sets allowing the action to move along without lengthy interruptions. What scene changes were required were accomplished with low lighting, which enabled the audience to see what was happening, although the principal entertainment was provided by the very well chosen musical pieces. Furniture, properties and costumes were appropriate; with Morris's Christmastide gold sateen shirt and flamboyant holiday wear evincing a particularly cringe-worthy portrait of the sartorially challenged British male. (And I enjoyed - if that's the right word - the knee length socks worn with sandals.)
The minor characters, the Vicar (Bill Bullivant), the waitress (Sara Halse) and the Porter (Roy Furness) also did well. All the cast moved freely and naturally around the stage, with the possible exception of the graveyard scene, during which I felt that the director was struggling to find sufficient business to keep his actors from becoming too static. The pace was generally brisk and well judged, with enough variation to give the audience time to ponder Morris's misgivings, although it dropped a little during the Beverly Hills scene. However, with the four principal actors back on stage it soon picked up again, and the scenes between Morris and Jean alone were consistently excellent.
Any Waterbeach production generally guarantees a good night out, and this was no exception. Well done to the rookie (as we were assured in the programme) director Chris Shinn and his cast and crew. I look forward to the next one.
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