Happy Jack is a two man play at the New Vic theatre – here Baba’s Reviewer Mel Osborne shares her thoughts…

 

The play, which was originally written by the award winning John Godber in 1981, has been revived by the Godber company. It stars John Godber and his wife Jane Thornton who first performed the show forty years ago.

Happy Jack is a very touching play written about the marriage of Jack and Liz. Jack is a proud Yorkshire man who has worked all his life in coal mines. He lives, breathes and works hard for every penny he makes. Liz is his ever loving wife who he has known since school. She is devoted to cleaning the house from top to bottom, keeping the coal dust at bay and making sure her husband always has clothes clean on. The play tells the tale of their life together through thick and thin.

Happy Jack is a mixture of poetry and prose. The narrative guides us as if we are flicking through a book, dipping in and out at the most notable parts. This makes it engaging viewing and a roller-coaster of emotions. We jump from middle age traumas to the excitement of first dates and the audience is not sure whether they are wiping their eyes with laughter or sorrow.

Liz and Jack can be any couple that we know, they can be our neighbours, our parents in fact they could even be us. The characters are very relatable and it will prompt many married couples to prod their spouse and say “That is you!”

Godber plays Jack with warmth and humour. Despite his misgivings he is a gentle giant who adores his wife and family like any proud Yorkshire man does. Thornton as Liz delivers with sensitivity and passion. A particular poignant monologue was when she was discussing her midlife depression and frustration at how limited her life was.

The theatre in the round is the perfect setting for this story. The stage is dressed in everyday household objects and strings of washing are cascaded around the set. The imagery painted to us by the actors is candid and we know that we are in a house, with many others that faces the colliery where Jack spends many hours of his day.

Even though this is a play that has been performed many times it actually feels as if it is the very first time. The lines feel fresh and the instinctive rapport between the couple are natural and un staged.

This performance has been seasoned with a good blend of Yorkshire grit and love. In true kitchen sink style it avoids saccharine sweetness. It is a tale about the truth about marriage. The good, the bad and the ugly and that true romance isn’t about flowers and fancy restaurants. It is about sticking with each other through the good and bad times.

This is a wonderful, heart-warming play that will have you leaving the theatre with a smile on your face. There are many laugh out loud moments and many in which you need a hanky. Some would say the perfect combination just like Liz and Jack.

*4 Stars

Happy Jack will take to the stage at the New Vic from Thursday 21 to Saturday 30 April 2022. For more information and to book call the Box Office on 01782 717 962 or visit newvictheatre.org.uk

(Main image ROBLING PHOTOGRAPHY)

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