It may be November in Huddersfield but quite soon it will be April in Paris at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
The well-known John Godber play, which takes a disgruntled married couple on a romantic jaunt to the French capital, is the latest production from Huddersfield Thespians.
While essentially a comedy the play has a deeper, more thought-provoking side. And the terrorist attacks led to a discussion within the thespians as to whether the production should go ahead.
As Thespians’s director Lynne Whitaker explains: “Given the terror attacks in Paris last Friday the Thespians did consider whether to continue with this production. After much heart-searching we decided that to cancel would be giving in to the terrorists. We are therefore going to perform April in Paris as a way of showing our support for the people of Paris.”
Talking about the production she added: “It is very funny but also quite moving. It’s about a couple going on a journey, not just to Paris but through their own relationship. It is a journey of re-evaluating their lives.”
Yorkshire-born Godber wrote April in Paris back in 1992 for the Hull Festival and says he was influenced by the fact that unemployment in the city was high, money was tight and shops were closing. Against this gloomy backdrop he gives his leading characters – it is a play for two actors – the chance to escape, albeit just for a weekend. Unemployed Al, who has been made redundant, and his wife Bet, a shop assistant, win a weekend in Paris.
Godber has explained that the competition was a device to give his character Al the opportunity to experience European travel for the first time and display a ‘little England’ fear of all that is foreign. In an interview last year, as April in Paris was about to begin a nationwide tour, the playwright said that the Ukip era is a good time to revisit this work and while writing the play he had considered the wider issues of immigration, Britishness and European membership.
Godber’s plays are among the most-performed in the UK and popular because of their accessibility and the way they feature ‘real’ people with the sorts of problems that audiences can identify with. April in Paris was created originally for John and his wife Jane to perform for the Hull Truck Theatre. He admits that it was designed to be a low-cost production but was so well received that it found its way to the Edinburgh Festival and then the West End.
The Thespians have produced April in Paris before and found that it went down well with Huddersfield audiences. Lynne, who has directed for the Thespians on one previous occasion but is an old hand in the theatre, says that April in Paris, because of its intensity and small cast, has proved to be a demanding play to direct. With both characters on stage pretty much the whole time it is also hard work for the actors.
“We are having a very simple set in the cellar theatre,” she explained, “with posters of Yorkshire and Paris on the wall, and it’s set in contemporary times. I think it’s a lovely story and in it we can recognise things from our own relationships. The couple have their ups and downs as all married couples do.
“It is hard work and takes a lot out of the people involved but Godber tends to go down well with local audiences, being a Yorkshire playwright.”
Al is played by Alistair Cheetham and the part of Jane is taken by Laura Womersley. Both actors are experienced thespians.
April in Paris is at the LBT from Tuesday, December 8, until Saturday, December 12. Tickets are £12 from www.thelbt.org or 01484 430528.