April in Paris – Civic Theatre, Darlington
Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East
Writer &Director: John Godber
We swap October in Darlington for April in Paris – a bitter sweet, painfully realistic view of married life from the pen of the multitalented John Godber.
Al and Bet, played by Joe McGann and Shobna Gulati, are a northern couple stuck in a rut. Married for 28 years, together by habit but falling apart. Struggling to adapt to an empty nest, Bet spends her little wages on scarves and magazines to make herself feel good, while Al paints since he lost his job after 30 years as a builder. A shortage of money brought on by redundancy, means their lives have become mundane and claustrophobic. A magnificent set by Pip Leckenby, with excellent lighting from Graham Kirk and sound by Colin Pink, reflects the futility and spiral into depression of their dreary, grey, drab and uninspired lives. And, as they separately strive to find some inspiration and meaning, their ongoing banter though highly amusing for the audience and delivered with perfectly-timed gestures and loaded-one liners, teeters dangerously close to dislike.
Is an unexpected win of a romantic trip to Paris enough to inject the spark and vitality back into this souring relationship?
Godber’s unique observational comedy transforms us from a sad life at home, via a vomit ridden ferry crossing to a vibrant, colourful exciting Paris and as they relax, they talk and the romance of the city enters their souls. But all too soon it’s over and they are back in their sad lives of existing rather than living, but things have changed. After a trip abroad Bet is happy to see the UK in a different light but Al, who hadn’t been abroad before, now wants to explore. His mundane pictures are now vibrant and his outlook is positive.
In this updated play from 1992, the two actors share a stage for two hours as the warring couple transform into butterflies from their safe, but mundane cocoon. While little has changed in society this show is poignant, dysfunctional, awkward and thought provoking. April in Paris is well worth a visit.