Shafted! is a new play (a two hander) by John Godber. Godber directs this excellent production with Neil Sissons as assistant director. It is produced under a joint production umbrella: The John Godber Company and Theatre Royal Wakefield. Lighting and set design is by Graham Kirk.
Godber and his real wife Jane Thornton play Harry and Dot, a married couple from the former Yorkshire coal mining town of Upton, and their non linear story takes place between 1985 and 2014. The fact that it is depicted as non linear adds extra emotional power to the piece as the audience discover events happy and sad in the characters’ lives before they do. In doing so we begin to sympathise greatly with this ordinary couple after the pit closures. Our sympathies are lain fair and square on their struggles to cope with trying to survive financially and matrimonially as well as fighting to keep themselves healthy in mind and body. The piece is often a tumultuous martial battle of dreams, stubbornness, manipulation and love. The dramatic language expressed through circumstance, through human trials and tribulations, is very truthful and the dramatic situations they find themselves bring about a universal affinity with the audience.
The play is told in short bite size scenes with a section of the garden gate centre stage depicting home for the couple and this reviewer read it as a metaphor for loss of community spirit. John Godber’s decision to place the story post – miners strike is just as powerful as any similar play constructed and played out in the heat of the historical moment. Music plays an important role in the play as most scenes are played alongside pop tracks pertinent to the time period and the context of the scene itself.
There is a great deal of humour in the drama of Shafted! particularly in the second half and the subtleties of the characters ageing or rejuvenating are exceptionally well done. This is a story about people who had to start again after their lives had been demolished and whose difficult experiences still resonate in former mining communities thirty plus years after the miners strikes of the mid 1980s. Be Harry and Dot secretly window cleaning in Wakefield, reluctantly working for the council as a refuge collector, holding down two jobs to survive or running a B&B in Bridlington their Yorkshire grit and spirit is undaunted. As an almost unspoken piece of recent history this play most certainly deserves to be seen.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe
Shafted! runs at the Djanogly Theatre Nottingham Lakeside Arts until Sat 19 March 2016